Selling Out Dallas Public Housing By John Fullinwider Dallas ON JANUARY 14, 1983, the Housing Authority of the City of for sale with Baylor University Medical Center for the sale of a local public housing project called Washington Place. The purchase price is $9 million. Baylor will pay $2.1 million upon closing, which is expected by August of this year; within a year of the closing date, a second payment of $1.5 million will be made to DHA. Thereafter, six annual payments of $900,000 each will be made to complete the sale. Baylor receives “full and exclusive possession of the property” after the first payment, including “the right to raze any and all of the improvements” that is, the homes of some 200 low-income tenants. Their apartments are part of the 347-unit project built during World War II, now overshadowed by the adjacent Baylor hospital complex. The 1,300-bed facility is the largest medical center in the state and, like half the hospitals in Texas, is now owned by a health conglomerate Baylor Health Care System which operates five other area hospitals. Baylor officials say they need the 17-acre Washington Place project for a long-range expansion program which, besides more beds, labs, and operating rooms, includes other “supporting services” such as “a Retirement Village .. . a new school of Allied Health Sciences, student housing, and a new Research Center, to name a few. ” Washington Place tenants claim they need the project now to live in. “It’s time you consider that we are citizens of this country,” testified Gwain Wooten, president of the Residents Council, at a recent DHA board meeting. “I’m concerned there is not enough housing for the poor in this city. . . . There are people sleeping in the streets.” DHA and Baylor have agreed to design a “release plan” which “will divide the parcel of land as nearly as practicable into John Fullinwider is co-director of the Neighborhood Information and Action Service and a researcher for community organizations in Dallas. tracts of a rectangular shape.” Under the release plan, Baylor may request that title to certain tracts be conveyed as they are paid off, prior to the full payment on the entire parcel. If Baylor sells any part of the property purchased within ten years of the closing date to any third party “for uses and purposes other than street, utility, health care, medical care or medical research,” the giant health chain must pay DHA half of the amount, if any, “by which the net proceeds of such unrelated sale exceeds square foot sold from the date of the Closing” at the annual interest rate of 14 % , according to the contract. It is questionable whether the $11.873 per sq. ft. selling price represents fair market value, especially considering the strategic inner-city location of the housing project, barely a mile east of the central business district and with ample frontage on a proposed $40 million ceremonial boulevard connecting downtown with the Texas State Fairgrounds. But the deal is substantially sweeter than that at least for Baylor. Not only has the U.S. Department of Housing & Urusual requirement that public bids be taken, but DHA has agreed in the contract to owner-finance the sale at zero percent interest for seven years. Before the contract for sale can be implemented, however, it is subject to a final review and approval by HUD. Moreover, it must survive a legal challenge filed November 29, 1982 . a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the tenants of Washington Place. Intentionally Vacant Washington Place is a multi-family public apartment complex owned by DHA and operated with federal funding, under the regulations of HUD. DHA is an independent quasi-public agency, with its five-member board appointed by the mayor of Dallas quasi-public because the people most directly impacted by its authority, the tenants, have no representative on the board. \(Following the 1972 opinion of then Attorney General Crawford Martin, the Dallas City At torney advised Mayor Jack Evans last year that a public housing tenant could not be appointed as a housing commissioner because of potential conflicts of The project is part of a racially integrated community in East Dallas, located at 421 N. Washington. The census tract containing Washington Place makeup in 1980: Total population 2,071 White Black Other Spanish Origin East Dallas as a whole had a population in 1980 that was 53 % white, 20% black and 27 % other races; the Spanish-origin population was 35 % of the total. The number of residents living in Washington Place has decreased stdadily over the past two years, from 347 occupied units in January 1981, to 310 occupied units in November 1981, to 217 occupied units in February of last year, to the current figure of approximately 180 occupied units. In documents filed with the U.S. District Court in conjunction with the tenants’ lawsuit, DHA admitted “that it has intentionally allowed one-third of the units at Washington Place [to] remain vacant.” Baylor Makes an Offer DHA Director Jack Herrington has stated that Baylor has been interested in purchasing Washington Place for “almost 10 years.” The feasibility of selling the project is the subject of a memo dated 6-7-79 from Sidney Miller of HUD’s Housing Division to then Area Manager for HUD Irving Statman. \(Unfortunately, HUD has refused to release this memo to the public despite a Freedom of Information Act request by the tenants’ at THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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