The $2 million set aside solely for seven census tracts in the 75212 zip code comes from funds City Manager T.C. Broadnax pulled together from former city bond packages — “projects we left behind or savings from projects in those areas,” says District 6 Councilman Omar Narvaez, who represents West Dallas.
“Instead of me choosing what to do with it, I gathered a collective of leaders across West Dallas and gave them four or five things, and let that group do their mini election,” Narvaez says. “It was almost unanimous that they wanted to spend money on home repairs.”
Residents who receive a home repair grant of at least $5,000 also will be eligible for a 10-year city tax freeze through the recently created West Dallas Neighborhood Empowerment Zone, “which is fantastic news for a lot of these folks,” Narvaez says.
“With gentrification happening in West Dallas, we’re hoping this will help stabilize enough homes so the current homeowners can stay in their homes longer,” Narvaez says.
The city will determine which households are eligible for the home repair grant and also the tax freeze based on area median income, or AMI. The current area median income for Dallas is $86,200. Home repair grants are available to families making up to 80% of the median income, depending on the size of the family.
For example, a family of four with an annual income of $68,950 or less would be eligible for up to $10,000 in home repairs.
“What’s happening is these people, they’re working hard, they’re playing by the rules and doing everything they can to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads, and the prices are going up,” Narvaez says.
Land values in West Dallas, especially those closest to the Trinity Groves development and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, have shot up in value over the past several years. Especially in neighborhoods like La Bajada and Los Altos, it means that a home worth $21,000 a decade ago could be valued at $121,000 now, and annual property taxes for that home have jumped from $570 to $3,300.
“We need to make sure that single mom working one or two jobs is not struggling to stay in her home with those two or three kids,” Narvaez says. “This will be a game changer for a lot of families who were born and raised in West Dallas.”
The property tax freeze applies only to City of Dallas taxes, which is less than one-third of the combined annual tax assessment from Dallas ISD, Dallas County, Dallas College and Parkland Hospital. Narvaez says his understanding is that a $5,000 home repair investment in a neighborhood empowerment zone will put “a cap on whatever you paid the year you get in,” so if you owe the city $945 in property taxes, you would owe that same amount in 10 years.
Applications for the home repair grant open Dec. 10 and are due Friday, Jan. 29. They can be downloaded online or picked up from one of seven West Dallas locations. The city is anticipating that it will receive more than 200 applications so will use a lottery system to distribute funds “equitably in all seven census tracts” and will prioritize exterior repairs, says Thor Erickson, an area redevelopment manger for the City of Dallas.
West Dallas residents can apply to fix any part of their home’s exterior, including things like windows and gutters. However, the city ultimately will determine which repairs are top priority.
“You may say, ‘I just need new windows,’ but before new windows, you need your foundation fixed,” Narvaez says. “There’s no sense in investing new windows in this home if they’re going to get screwed up in a few years because the foundation is messed up.”
Applications for the Neighborhood Empowerment Zone tax freeze won’t be available until February 2021, but a city spokeswoman says the applications will allow repairs under city programs, such as the West Dallas funds, to qualify for the NEZ program.
Editor’s note: This story was updated when the city released its deadlines and further information in its Dec. 10 presentation, and again when the city extended the deadline to Friday, Jan. 29.