July 28, 2008

Dallas Housing Authority to Open New List for Vouchers

By Kim Horner, The Dallas Morning News

Jul. 27--The Dallas Housing Authority soon will begin accepting applications for court-ordered rental assistance available to black residents who want to live in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The DHA is required to offer the vouchers only to blacks as part of a court settlement to address past discrimination. And the agency could not find enough takers on its general waiting list for rent assistance, which includes 8,000 applicants of all races.

Applications will be accepted only online Aug. 11-17. The general waiting list for rental vouchers remains closed.

The DHA, which has received 3,205 of the special court-ordered vouchers in all, must distribute 500 remaining vouchers by the end of the year. The rent vouchers pay part of a family's rent, based on its income.

Ann Lott, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Housing Authority, said the new waiting list will speed the process by attracting new applicants who want to live in predominantly white areas.

The DHA must distribute the vouchers by the end of the year.

"With this waiting list, we'll have a list of applicants who want to move to the court-targeted areas," Ms. Lott said.

The agency received the vouchers as part of a settlement designed to help black families move out of segregated, high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods. A federal judge ruled in 1995 that the DHA's public housing program forced blacks to live in segregated slums.

Some on the agency's general list have declined the special vouchers. Others could not find landlords to accept the vouchers, or they had poor credit or rental histories.

Rental vouchers are in high demand nationally, with residents waiting several years for the assistance in most major cities. The DHA stopped taking new applications for rental aid four years ago because of a backlog that forces low-income residents to wait years for help.

Mike Daniel, a Dallas lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the settlement, said he believes there will be plenty of qualified applicants on the new waiting list.

"It's the first time since 2004 that people have a new opportunity to sign up for the settlement vouchers to be used in predominately white areas," he said. "This is a small number of vouchers issued for victims of past discrimination."

DHA officials are expecting a high number of applicants.

"I think the housing authority's making great strides getting those allocated as the court said," said Latrisa Davis, a public housing resident who serves on the agency's board of commissioners and has one of the vouchers from the court settlement.


--What: The Dallas Housing Authority soon will begin taking applications for a certain type of rental assistance through a court settlement for blacks who want to live in predominantly white areas.

--When: Applications will be accepted Aug. 11-17.

--Where: Only online at www.dhadal.info. The agency recommends that people without computers go to public libraries or other facilities or the DHA administrative offices.

--Who: Black applicants who meet income guidelines. A family of four may not earn more than $61,500 a year to qualify.

--How many: The DHA has about 500 vouchers remaining.

--Why: The aid is a court remedy for past discrimination.

Sources: Dallas Housing Authority, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development


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