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Dallas voters will pick the city’s next mayor on May 4.
Each of the nine candidates remaining has opined on the need for Dallas to focus on transportation, urban renewal, education, affordable housing and workforce development.
But what would each candidate’s platform mean for commercial real estate?
Bisnow sent questionnaires to every candidate in the Dallas mayor’s race to find out and will run the responses of all candidates who provide feedback.
Candidate Miguel Solis is a former public school teacher and serves as a DISD school board trustee. He said he often sees a strong connection between a city’s ability to educate and create a workforce and its ability to grow, attract businesses and development. Solis also is a nonprofit leader.
He shared his ideas for working with the CRE community with Bisnow:
Bisnow: What do you believe is the role of City Council when it comes to commercial development in the city?
Miguel Solis: The City Council should be a partner with developers to incent inclusive development that allows people from all walks of life to live and thrive in Dallas.
Bisnow: Do you believe affordable housing is an issue in Dallas? If so, what is your plan for addressing this issue?
Solis: Yes, and the housing policy is the beginning of the right plan, but it must go further if our city is to reckon with the dark history of housing decisions in the 1900s and their continued impact on today’s residents. The situation demands a robust, courageous and energetic housing policy that equals the magnitude of our problem and improves outcomes at population scale.
This characterization paints with a broad brush, but it’s fair to say that Dallas has relied more upon an ad-hoc, deal-by-deal approach centered on negotiations between developers, council members, and city staff. There has been less emphasis on predictable citywide policies and regulations and more emphasis on project-by-project discussions. Like most cities, there has been the usual collection of tools and programs that have been used, but often in siloes (i.e., LIHTC, vouchers, CDBG, HOME, TIFs, land banking, etc.) and not necessarily connected to other deals that were also going on. This approach has not produced the results we need at scale.
While chairing the Opportunity Dallas Housing Task Force I learned a lot about ways to improve our current housing conditions. As a result, I have 23 new ideas that can be tacked onto the current housing policy so that we can truly make it a comprehensive one. These ideas include creating a neighborhood change index which is a predictor of gentrification and helps cities plan development in a more inclusive way, creating a relocation assistance program for families negatively impacted by city-driven development, establishing community benefit agreements which bring communities into the planning phase of development, establishing and funding a robust housing trust fund, and freeing up the city land bank to developers after zoning the land with input from the community.
These changes to the housing policy must occur if we are to shape the city of the future and reckon with the compounding moral debts of past housing decisions.
Bisnow: There have been instances of developers and council members throughout North Texas facing legal consequences for bribes and undue influence when it comes to housing and commercial developments. What do you plan to do to tackle that particular issue?
Solis: The next mayor must work with the council and state legislature to remove council from low income housing tax credit decisions, which has been the main vehicle for corruption. The next mayor should also usher the council through comprehensive ethics reform. As a part of this reform, the council should pass a resolution giving authority to the audit department to scrub all campaign contributions immediately upon submission by candidates to identify any discrepancies that might expose council members to corruption. The current city ethics commission should also be reformed — currently this commission is appointed by the council, which is the equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse. This commission should be as objective as possible and removing council members from the process will help. These are just a few of the many things we can do to clean up City Hall.
Bisnow: If you only had time to focus on one issue in terms of commercial development, what issue would that be and how would you address it?
Solis: I would focus on instituting new methods of planning rooted in new urbanism which seeks to fuse commercial development with housing development. I am certain that if we create communities where people can eat, sleep, work and play all within walking distance, we will have created a better city for our people. We can address this by ensuring we have a robust master plan for the city that infuses the tenets of new urbanism into the plan.
Bisnow: As more redevelopment goes on Downtown, in Fair Park and in Deep Ellum, more high-priced apartments and other facilities are coming in. What is your view of these redeveloping areas and what role do you believe the city plays in sustaining them?
Solis: I am a believer in inclusive development, otherwise known as “gentlefication.” People want development, but they want to ensure that they can benefit from it versus being pushed out because of it. By building on the current housing policy, we can ensure that all Dallasites thrive alongside development. This said, it is essential that we create a city that attracts new people to the core. That means we must focus on things like multimodal transportation, walkability, better sidewalks, density, bike lanes and other things that new generations of Americans looks for when choosing where to live. We must also have a thriving downtown that serves as the melting pot of the community. Dallas is a diverse city but due to previous planning, we cannot experience the full benefits of this diversity. I am convinced that we are at the beginning of a downtown renaissance and our next mayor must ensure that this decade of downtown ensures people from all walks of life can access its amenities and benefit from its growth.
Bisnow: Do you have a vision for the forgotten Bachman Lake area near Love Field Airport?
Solis: I have represented the Bachman Lake community for six years on the school board and I could not be prouder of the neighborhood leaders of the community. There are a few things that must occur for Bachman Lake to thrive. Two of these things include dredging and beautifying the lake and expanding high quality early child care throughout the community. There is currently a neighborhood plan in place to improve the lake in order to deal with an accumulation of silt and create a set of amenities for the people of the community. I intend on supporting this plan. Furthermore, one of the highest concentrations of 3- and 4-year-olds not receiving early child care is in the Bachman Lake neighborhood so we must expand these services to these children so that they are set up for success in the future.
Bisnow: Why should the DFW area commercial real estate community vote for you?
Solis: Dallas has a booming economy and one of the lowest unemployment rates we may have ever had. This success is juxtaposed with the third largest child poverty rate of cities 1 million-plus and a city still hyper-segregated. We need a leader who has experience getting big things done for Dallas in local government dealing with local politics while bringing people together. I have been that leader on the school board and I am ready to be that leader as your next mayor. Together, we can have the city we know we deserve and we can leave a better city for future generations.