Abstract

On the outskirts of the city of Dallas, Texas are the vestiges of a sprawling public housing project of 3,500 units known simply as West Dallas. The city built the project in 1955 as a solution to the "Negro Housing problem," the fear that the strong private market demand for rental housing among African Americans would lead to black encroachment into white neighborhoods, and that such integration pressure might meet violent white resistance. Not one dollar was spent on maintenance or modernization for ten years during the late 1960s and l970s, because the Dallas Housing Authority lost all federal revenue for refusing to comply with federal fair housing laws. Throughout the life of the project, West Dallas residents have been alienated from employment opportunities, city services, and amenities. Many of them suffered severe health effects caused by an adjacent lead smelter. In 1975, rapes in the area were over six times more frequent than elsewhere in the city and West Dallas residents were five times more likely to be murdered. In the 1980s, as with other large-scale public housing projects across the country, residents and housing advocates clamored for West Dallas's demolition.

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