Cypress Creek affordable housing project gets Dallas City Council approval after years of delays
The Dallas City Council took what could be a final vote related to a proposed mixed-income apartment complex near North Central Expressway and Forest Lane, approving a project cheered by fair housing advocates and opposed by some homeowners in nearby neighborhoods.
The project, Cypress Creek at Forest Lane, will include nearly 200 apartments, with some renting at market rates and most priced to be affordable to people who are lower- and middle-income residents who couldn’t otherwise afford to move into the area. The project is expected to cost about $60 million.
Fair housing advocates have pushed for Cypress Creek’s approval because it will bring affordable housing to a “high opportunity” area with a lower-than-average poverty rate, ample jobs and nearby transit. The building will also offer opportunities for people who use housing vouchers to move to an area of the city often out of reach.
Last month, the council directed city staff to acquire the land for the project. The vote on Wednesday authorized terms for a lease and development agreement that’ll allow the developer, Sycamore Strategies, to line up financing, start building, and eventually operate the apartment complex.
Philip Kingston, a lawyer who represents the project’s developer, Sycamore Strategies, cheered the decision as “a path forward to deliver on the promise of this deeply affordable housing project,” and “a reiteration of this council’s sincere commitment to providing affordable housing for people who need it.”
The project has been in the works since 2020, stymied by a series of procedural, legal and political hurdles. Wednesday’s vote may be the final time city council members weigh in on any aspect of the project, though developers often apply for gap financing to complete affordable housing projects.
After winning highly competitive federal tax credits in 2021, the project was blocked from moving forward by a 1976 deed restriction limiting use of the land to “office buildings, hotels, motels and restaurants” unless otherwise approved by a majority of nearby property owners.
Those property owners opposed the affordable housing plan, making it impossible for Sycamore Strategies to move forward on its own.
But the project was salvaged by working with the city to acquire the property and lease the land back to Sycamore Strategies as an end-run around the deed restriction. The city, as the owner of the property, has the ability to ignore a private deed restriction if it’s using the land for a public purpose. Affordable housing is named as a public purpose in city code and state law.
William Roth, who runs a commercial real estate firm and owns the office building next door to the future apartments, spoke against the project. He said the site is inappropriate for housing because the surrounding properties are businesses and next to North Central Expressway.
“Please don’t fall into the trap of approving a bad location, a bad business deal for the city, and most importantly, committing to the long-term, real detriment of those families who’ll be forced to live in this undesirable, isolated project,” he said to council members.
Two nearby market-rate apartment complexes on the other side of Forest Lane — The Callie and 75 West Apartments at Park Central — could be similarly described and they charge upwards of $1,265 and $1,445 for one-bedroom apartments, respectively.
Council Members Adam McGough, Cara Mendelsohn and Casey Thomas voted to oppose the project, which passed with 12 votes in favor.
'There will be litigation...'
McGough, who represents the area, has opposed the project from the beginning, citing opposition from people who live in neighborhoods and the private deed restrictions. Roth has threatened to sue to block the project, and other project opponents speaking at Wednesday’s meeting raised the specter of litigation against the city.
“We’ve talked ad nauseum about the deed restrictions, we know there will be litigation. I do believe the litigation will be successful,” McGough said.
“If folks want to sue us, bring it on,” said Council Member Carolyn King Arnold.
The District 3 council member framed her support for the project as a step toward fulfilling the city’s commitment to racial equity by giving lower-income people access to higher-opportunity neighborhoods.
About 40 of the units will be eligible for recipients of housing vouchers designed to help lower-income Black people move into neighborhoods that often excluded them. These so-called Walker vouchers are the product of a 1980s class action lawsuit over city housing policies that deepened segregation by limiting options for low-income Black residents.
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