A New Map of Blight in Dallas Highlights the Depth of City's North-South Divide

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Every so often, Dwaine Caraway or another southern Dallas City Council member will put on a hard hat, head to an old drug house and glad-hand the media while the National Guard demolishes the building. As pure spectacle, it's quite satisfying. It's a tangible gesture that showcases the city's commitment to eliminating eyesores and reducing crime in economically depressed communities. Plus, it's fun to watch guys in camo smash things.

As a strategy to combat blight, however, it's not terribly effective. Each house that's razed costs the city months of condemnation battles and $8,000 to $17,000 in abatement expenses, legal fees, dumping charges and the like. The city destroyed some 1,600 homes and businesses between 2007 and 2011, but that represents a small fraction of Dallas' rotting building stock.

Eliminating blight requires a more holistic approach, and a more holistic approach requires a better understanding of the problem. It's easy enough to look at a dilapidated house or drive through a sketchy neighborhood and declare it blighted. It's much harder, but also much more useful, to quantify blight and put it on a map.

That's what a quartet of UNT researchers and Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity have done in a new report optimistically titled "From Blight to Light: Assessing Blight in the City of Dallas."

The report itself is a rather dense 99 pages, and many of its conclusions are fairly obvious: Blight is typically associated with higher crime rates and gang activity, for example; minorities, who tend to be poorer, also tend to live in high-blight areas; southern Dallas is much more ravaged by blight than the north.

What's new is that the UNT researchers describe all this in a single number, a Composite Blight Index. This is a measurement, census tract by census tract, of a neighborhood's well-being based on a weighted mix of property-based variables (essentially the number of vacant, abandoned or tax-delinquent properties) and socioeconomic ones (poverty, unemployment, race, etc.).

The goal of the researchers is to provide policymakers and nonprofits with a tool to help target economically disadvantaged areas and to "spark public discourse to help target interventions that are aimed at recouping delinquent property taxes and unpaid liens." Those two factors together cost the city about $13 million in revenue each year, the report concludes, not to mention the increased costs of code compliance and police protection in high-blight areas.

Plotted on a map, it offers another peek at the intense north-south divide within the city, which is predictable but nonetheless discouraging. Sixteen percent of Dallas is classified as high-blight, the vast majority of which falls south of the Trinity. The researchers' composite blight map is above. It's also interesting to look at the distribution of vacant properties:

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And violent crimes:

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It's a problem that seems intractable but which must be fixed, or else a huge swath of poverty and blight will continue to tug down an otherwise ascendant city.

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24 comments
John1073
John1073

The right wing killed off ACORN. So enjoy your blight.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Using their Precise maps one would have to think that an entire complex of buildings consisting of a Catholic Church A Retreat A Convent and the surrounding land at the Southwest corner of West Davis and Cockerell Hill  Rd are highly  BLIGHTED ....



Tom434
Tom434

Ask anybody who lives in an Historic District how hard it is to maintain their 50-100 year old home and how much it costs.  Now move three blocks out of the Historic District and ask the same question to a retiree on a fixed income.  The costs are still going to be there but the person on the fixed income is going to have problems making those repairs. 

Throw in low income rentals that aren't maintained and add a touch of middle class flight to the burbs and a rising crime rate and drug problem and he have blight. 

logic4dallas
logic4dallas

As neighborhoods age and upkeep declines families, that are able, will move to more desirable areas. Using your "white flight" argument families wanting a better life are in some why horrible people? Should they remain and become victims of crime, lose equity in their homes due to falling values, and let their children suffer substandard schools? Why not put some of the blame on the families moving in behind your "white flight" crowd? In your mind its the fault of those who left and not the ones that took their place. You know, the people who contribute to the crime, the blight, by either being actively involved or allowing the destruction of those neighborhoods by remaining silent. Did you move to better your life, or did you move to champion neighborhoods in decline elsewhere? I'm not a huge fan of the burbs either, but homeless urinating on your front door, being mugged, and riding a bike to work in 105 degree weather isn't for everyone.

Obummer
Obummer

Yo who iz gonna pick up all da unlicensed pharmacist in Dallas?

Lorlee
Lorlee

The study was strictly a compilation of numbers done a the behest of Habitat for Humanity from information they were able to pry out of the City.  They did not have the money for any on the ground study -- hence you will have areas that are blighted and across the street, apparently not blighted.  It was done by census tracts.  Also one of the numbers is tax value -- which isn't always a good predictor of blight.


As a veteran of 33 years of efforts in my neighborhood,  service on the CD Board, the Urban Rehab Board, the Licenses and Permit Appeal Board, and even a stint on the Dog Pound Board, unless and until the City gets serious about pro-active code enforcement, enacts rental registration and comes down hard on slumlords, nothing will change.  

markzero
markzero

Someone overlay that with a picture of where the Inland Port was going to go. Also, just for grins, mark out JWP's fiefdom and notice the overlap.

Tom434
Tom434

Another useless report that tells us what we already knew.

dallasdrilling.wordpress.com
dallasdrilling.wordpress.com

Let's see what kind of rally, Mike Rawlings is going to host since that domestic abuse version he had this past Spring made such an impact.

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

And yet, DISD feels the need to put extra layers of administrators and false reforms to increase student achievement. Guess this stuff has NO bearing on a child's life, right?

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

The Ponzi scheme of car-dependent housing. Everyone builds themselves a home, many later moving and building themselves another new home. Then the area growth slows, people leave, and left behind are a bunch of abandoned homes (and strip malls, etc.). The wreckage left behind in many DFW burbs is going to be an incredible mess for people in the future to clean up (ask Detroit and Cleveland), but for now, sprawl it up. Just hope the kids can get through school and you can get out of your burb and to the beach before the cycle turns.

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

The legend is missing a #5 "Holy shit, they eat other people in this neighborhood"

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Obummer "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." ---Harriet Tubman

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@Tom434 Wait, are you saying you expected something useful out of the DO?  This is entertainment man.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@MikeDunlap Try again genius.  You could give everyone in Dallas' southern sector a free bicycle and it would still have the same blight.  You could give them jobs within biking distance of their homes and there would still be blight there.  The reason for the blight in South Dallas can be traced directly back to the people who killed the Allen Company's Inland Port development.  They've killed every initiative to bring revival and renewal to south Dallas in the name of holding on to the reins of power.

This has nothing to do with cars, population density or walkable streets, and everything to do with political machinations aimed at keeping poor people poor and dependent.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@MikeDunlap 1) What consultant do you work for again? 2) Where did this article talk about the suburbs?  Not saying it's not there, I only skim articles by Nicholson, but it seemed that most of your response is irrelevant.  3) Not sure how the weather is in New York, but it's been pretty hot since it is July in Texas, so it's not just car-dependent housing, it is air-conditioned car dependent housing.  You can ride your bicycle to work if you really want to, but don't expect it to be the majority.  4) You are a bit late on the Detroit comparison that has already been covered by Schutze earlier this week.  5) You do realize that transporting materials, trucking, and distribution is a major part of the regional economy of Dallas right? 

Nonetheless, I have no issues with high density, mixed use housing and work.  However, that is not going to happen in blighted areas.  Blight is not a product of low density housing and car owners.  It's the product of low wage earners, poor education, and high crime. 

Next time you are in town, you should ride your bicycle around Fair Park at night.

Obummer
Obummer

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz@Obummer 

Yo as William James said, “Common sense an' uh sense o' humor is da same thin`, moving at different speeds. uh sense o' humor iz just common sense, dancing.”

Mervis
Mervis

I don't think the DO wrote the 99 page report.

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

So white flight had nothing to do with the decline of inner-city neighborhoods? Um, OK.

I don't think I've seen one post at this blog you haven't commented on. That is really intense. And probably unhealthy.

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

I rode my bike in the Fair Park area at night all the time while living in Dallas. Many Switching Gears patrons do.

As for the strong correlation between suburban sprawl and inner-city blight, I am sure you are well aware of the extensive academic research on that, so I don't need to explain it for you here.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@MikeDunlap 

to say that the decline of neighborhoods is based on "white flight", or on "the ponzi scheme of car dependent housing", is missing the basic root of the issue.

several of the neighborhoods that show high levels of blight are white majority. many neighborhoods that are not blighted, but are similar in age to those that are blighted, are car dependent as you put it. so much for your assertions...

it's simple, these blighted areas don't have residents who are investing in their housing. why? several factors: poor performing schools producing tepid demand for owner occupied housing, more renters and owners who are content in staying in the "affordable housing" price segment, a bit of the "broken window" phenom.

as for RT's "unhealthy" level of posts, I'll leave it to him to respond, but all I can say is the posts RT places on this site are light years ahead of yours in thought and intellect. jealous maybe?

MikeDunlap
MikeDunlap

@becoolerifyoudid An SMU professor making the same point about unsustainable development:

Bernard Weinstein, an economist as SMU’s Cox School of Business, says Habit for Humanity does a “great job”; but, combating urban decay is a monumental task.

“You can invest in infrastructure, and the city has done some of that, “ says Professor Weinstein, “but, it’s just a tough, tough job, and it takes a long, long time. Because we’re so spread out and because there’s so much new land for development, it’s very hard to channel resources into these blighted areas that are pretty much the same as they were a decade ago.”

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/07/12/sixteen-percent-of-dallas-neighborhood-in-decline/

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@MikeDunlap 

Take a trip further down Grand Ave toward MLK next time, go a little further than just the Meridian Room.

No need to regurgitate it, but you do need to explain the correlations as to Dallas particularly.  D/FW does not have one central business district. So a suburb such as Coppell is much closer to businesses in Las Colinas.  Also, Dallas is not a manufacturing hub such as Detroit or Cleveland.  So again the research doesn't appear to be applicable. 

While high-density, walkable neighborhoods is an ideal, no developer would sink their own money into such a development in a blighted area (I know, I know you are supposed to help the consultant convince the city to spend taxpayer dollars to do this) which is why West Village has mixed use "New Urbanism" and other areas have blight. 

Furthermore, your anti-car stance does not account for the fact that the blighted areas noted above are areas where public transportation is relatively high and car ownership relatively low as compared to the rest of the city. 

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