Hundreds of Dallas Housing Authority’s Rent Vouchers Go Unused

Kim Horner, Dallas Morning News, June 22, 2008

The Dallas Housing Authority provides rent-assistance vouchers to about 17,000 families. Nearly 8,000 more are on a waiting list, a backlog so massive that the agency quit taking new applications four years ago.

So why does it also have 500 special rent vouchers going unused?

DHA boss Ann Lott says some on the list have tried to use the vouchers—which are reserved for blacks willing to move to predominantly white areas—but couldn’t find landlords to accept them. Some families have bad credit or poor rental histories.

Others on the list have declined the vouchers, telling DHA they don’t want to move far from relatives and churches. And families without cars struggle with the lack of public transportation in some suburbs.

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DHA is required under a court settlement to offer the vouchers, which pay part of a family’s rent plus application fees and deposits.

Mike Daniel, a Dallas lawyer who represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the settlement, said he believes there are plenty of African-American families ready to live in predominantly white areas. He said the agency has not worked hard enough to find them.

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The 500 unused vouchers are what remains of a pool of 3,205 required under a 1995 order that led to the settlement.

U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, who is now retired, ordered the DHA to build that many units of housing in predominantly white areas.

The agency was met with strong neighborhood resistance, and the court later agreed to allow vouchers instead.

DHA vouchers

Seven black residents sued the Dallas Housing Authority, the city and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1985, alleging that Dallas’ public housing for blacks was segregated and substandard. Former U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer agreed and required the following through a series of court orders and settlements:

* The DHA must help 3,205 black families rent homes in predominantly white areas.

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