Fort Worth, Texas – In Fort Worth, the issue of affordable housing has taken center stage as city officials confront the stark reality that a median-income family can no longer afford a median-priced home within the city limits. This troubling revelation has spurred city leaders to take decisive action to address housing affordability, and they have presented a comprehensive five-year plan that aims to revitalize neighborhoods and alleviate the burden of unaffordable housing.
On Wednesday, Fort Worth’s Neighborhood Services department, led by Director Victor Turner, unveiled this ambitious strategy to the public.
“[We’re] right at the doorstep of an affordable housing crisis so we want to be proactive in addressing that and we think this gives us a roadmap to address those concerns,” said Victor Turner, Director of Fort Worth’s Neighborhood Services.
Fort Worth is adding more jobs than housing
The urgency of this plan is underscored by a report that indicates the city is adding new jobs at a faster rate than housing, which has led to rising housing costs. This trend has hit some neighborhoods particularly hard, with areas such as Stop Six and Poly experiencing a threefold increase in home values over the past seven years. Furthermore, the report reveals that citywide rent has surged by 22.8% since March of 2020.
“The public sector has a role in trying to level the playing field somewhat,” said Turner.
The widening gap between income and housing costs highlights the urgent need for action, and Turner believes that the public sector has a vital role to play in leveling the playing field. The plan outlines several key initiatives that aim to increase affordability and promote sustainable development.
One innovative approach is the establishment of a land bank, which would acquire foreclosed properties and subsequently facilitate the construction of new, affordable housing. The plan also aims to expand existing programs that assist residents in affording their current homes, providing much-needed relief for those struggling to make ends meet.
Victor Turner also proposed a creation of community land trusts
Another proposed measure is the creation of community land trusts, which would ensure that certain homes remain perpetually affordable. These trusts would provide a long-term solution to the issue of affordability and help to create more stable and inclusive communities.
The multifaceted plan reflects the city’s commitment to addressing the affordability crisis head-on and providing a more secure future for all its residents. In an environment characterized by rapidly changing dynamics and escalating costs, this initiative represents a crucial step toward achieving a more equitable and sustainable housing landscape in Fort Worth.
The Fort Worth affordable housing problem
In the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region, the surge in housing costs is pushing many families to the brink, with homeownership becoming increasingly unattainable. The median sales price for a home in the area has more than doubled from $150,000 ten years ago to upwards of $350,000, making it almost impossible for working families to enter the market, according to Donna Van Ness, CEO of Housing Channel Fort Worth.
This non-profit organization offers support to lower-income and working families in the DFW region, including free housing counseling, financial education classes, and down payment assistance programs. However, they have observed a worrying decrease in class enrollment, likely due to rising interest rates and the increasing difficulty of entering the homeownership market.
The shortage of available housing is exacerbating the competition for homes in the area, as the demand continues to outstrip supply. Last year, only about 33% of the homes on the market were affordable to median income households in DFW, and for low to moderate-income households, it drops to a mere 11%. Adding to the difficulties for working families, one out of five buyers is an investor who can offer cash and a quick closing period, putting them at a significant advantage.
However, Van Ness encourages prospective homeowners to think about entering the market with a more modest property and gradually trading up. She also urges local governments to prioritize housing programs and funding. The Fort Worth mayor has identified housing as a key issue in the upcoming budget deliberations, with the city expected to present an affordable housing strategic blueprint. In addition, Dallas is planning to allocate $200 million for affordable housing in its $1 billion 2024 bond package. While Van Ness is skeptical of a return to the lower interest rates of the past or a significant drop in property prices, she recommends that potential homeowners consider entering the market in areas showing signs of growth and potential.