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Dallas Fights HUD’s Segregation ‘Assumptions’

DALLAS (CN) - Dallas does not discriminate against minorities and the disabled by withholding affordable-housing funding for a downtown project, the city says in a rebuttal to allegations by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The federal agency's Fort Worth office warned the city in November that it may be violating civil rights laws.

HUD investigated after developer 1600 Pacific complained that the city refused in 2009 to provide funding for a proposed apartment development at a now-vacant skyscraper in the downtown central business district. The project would have included affordable-housing units in a 33-floor office tower.

In its 59-page response letter sent on Jan. 9, the city says HUD's conclusions are based on "outdated and incomplete information."

"(T)he letter ignored most of the city's substantial accomplishments to develop affordable housing - many of which could not have been achieved without HUD's active support and approval," the city attorney wrote. "The city is and has been a strong proponent of fair housing and affordable housing and has worked cooperatively with HUD to serve low to moderate income families and to promote fair housing."

In the letter, City Attorney Warren Ernst attacks several of HUD's "assumptions:" that the project would have been built if the city had supported it; that the financial situation of the developer was similar to that of other city-supported developers; and that no affordable housing existed or is planned for the central business district.

"The letter does not reference evidence that supports the assumption[s] and the actual facts refute the assumption," Ernst wrote. "The letter assumes city opposition to affordable housing in the central business district and in particular affordable housing serving low and very low income families."

The city says it never processed the developer's application because the project "had no means to repay the loan and the company was insolvent."

City Councilman Scott Griggs, vice chairman of the housing committee, told the Dallas Morning News in December that the HUD letter confirmed the image of Dallas as a segregated city: an affluent northern half whose residents can pay market-rate rents and a poorer southern half for low-income people who need rent subsidies.

"It sets up that in southern Dallas we're going to continue to put low-income housing, but when you get to the north we're going to use the money that should be used for low- and moderate-income housing but find a way to create market rate," Griggs said.

In its rebuttal, the city disagrees, claiming HUD's conclusion that the city opposes housing for minorities and disabled is an "unsupported jump" to conclusions.

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