Greenlining is Remedy for Redlining and Bluelining


Greenlining, designating a neighborhood solely for new and renovated homes, serves as an affordable housing tool and as a neighborhood revitalization tool.  For 35 years, since Eric Moye chaired Mayor Starke Taylor’s Southern Dallas Task Force, the city of Dallas has called for the tax base and desirability of Southern Dallas to become closer to that of Northern Dallas.

Greenlining specific Southern Dallas neighborhoods would propel the desirability and economic development of Southern Dallas. At a time when transit lines and stops are billed as renovation tools but fail to bring economic development on their own, and new mixed income apartments are touted to help a neighborhood, single-family neighborhoods increase the desirability of the property and all the uses around them.

Greenlining neighborhoods in Southern Dallas also increases the number of affordable homes and opportunities for low- and moderate-income families to become homeowners. The timing for greenlining, protecting and promoting single-family home neighborhoods in Southern Dallas is even more fortuitous when Oregon, California, Minnesota and other parts of the country are in the process of eliminating single-family zoning, promoting apartment development in existing single-family home neighborhoods.

Greenlining designated areas of Southern Dallas for new and renovated single-family homes would give that neighborhood a positive direction, an economic thrust, homeowner confidence that propels a neighborhood and a certainty of success.

Redlining and Bluelining Devastated Older Neighborhoods

Greenlining neighborhoods is the remedy for the negative effects of redlining and bluelining that have devastated Southern Dallas and older low-income neighborhoods for decades. Redlining turned off the spigot of conventional home loans in Southern Dallas neighborhoods as it did many older neighborhoods. Bluelining was even worse—it turned on a fire hose of free money for developers to buy inexpensive homes to tear down in order to build low-income and mixed low-income apartments. The more low-income apartments that are built, the fewer opportunities for those with low and moderate income to buy an affordable home.

Greenlining Stops the Bad—Encourages the Good

Greenlining is a two-pronged approach. Stopping the bad starts with prohibiting any new apartment units in a greenlined area. Encouraging the good starts with redirecting the free money that has been going to developers to buy land for their apartment developments or to subsidize their apartments and instead spending it on improving the landscape and infrastructure of an area or neighborhood.

Greenlining Prohibits Any New Apartments in a Greenlined Area

This Oak Cliff District 3 apartment is not even one of the 18 developer subsidized low-income apartments in District 3. The large sign in front of the apartment complex proclaiming NO to Weapons listed in three different ways and NO to Drugs and Criminal Activity advertise the problems apartment complexes attract.

Apartments cause greater instability, crime and deterioration, and has undermined the health of older neighborhoods. Greenlining an area, prohibiting any new apartments, serves as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding in older low-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Homeowners and homebuyers in these neighborhoods may for the first time see a positive direction in their neighborhood. The incremental neighborhood devastation that each new apartment brings comes to a halt when new apartment construction is stopped. Every time a new home is built or an older home is renovated, the neighborhood gets better.

Installing New Curbs, Sidewalks, Parkway Trees, and High Speed Internet Connectivity in Established Neighborhoods

For instance, instead of approximately $33 million in funds for one developer in Dallas City Council District 3 in Southern Dallas to build a Low-Income Tax Credit apartment development, that $33 million could go for new curbs, sidewalks, street lights, parkway trees, and high speed internet connectivity in established neighborhoods in District 3.

Greenlined areas would also be given priority for any grants for green technologies and enhancements like charging stations, solar panels and shared geothermal wells that reduce energy use would be desirable for homebuyers and have positive impacts for city.

Enhancing Dallas neighborhoods with time honored plans, technological advancements and forward thinking green strategies would attract homeowners, transform a neighborhood and become the organic urbanism standard for other neighborhoods and other cities to follow.

Greenlining Would Designate Vast Undeveloped Land in Dallas’ District 3 For a Desirable Single-family Development Plan

Some of the most beautiful vacant land for single-family homes is in Oak Cliff’s District 3 as seen here in the Brettonwoods neighborhood. It also has the advantage of being inexpensive.

In Southern Dallas there are still hundreds of acres of contiguous undeveloped land. Rather than the current trend of eliminating parkways and sidewalks that dangerously hug the streets, greenlining would designate an area for the kind of development plans that made Munger Place, Swiss Avenue, Highland Park, Volk Estates and Greenway Parks successful.

Regardless of the size or expense of the homes built in greenlined neighborhoods, the new parkways, boulevards, triangle parks and greenways would immediately create desirability and add value to the neighborhood being developed and those neighborhoods surrounding it. Homeowners and residents near greenlined neighborhoods will enjoy walking or riding their bikes through these new neighborhoods. An organic urbanism approach that celebrates nature and the shared green space in the neighborhoods is the best way for the city to invest in green partnerships.

Dallas City Council District 3 in Southern Dallas Would Be the Perfect National Demonstration Area for Greenlining

Kiestwood home in Southern Dallas set back into nature.

Dallas City Council District 3 would be an ideal national demonstration area for Greenlining and its power to transform a neighborhood. District 3 has inexpensive land that makes quality residential development possible. Also, District 3 has an abundance of dilapidated but inexpensive existing single-family homes that eliminate high cost barriers to new homebuyers. In addition, District 3 has another essential ingredient—passionate and sophisticated homeowners like architect and retired city planner, Darryl Baker, who understands the devastation that low-income apartments and multifamily zoning brings to the neighborhood.

Greenlining is the solution for Southern Dallas and many low-income and predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Greenlining would reverse and remedy the ill effects of redlining and bluelining that devastated Southern Dallas and other predominantly low-income and Black neighborhoods. The effects of redlining and bluelining have devastated Southern Dallas neighborhoods for decades. This Southern Sector of Dallas has continued to suffer due to the mixed low-income housing that the Dallas City Council continues to dump on District 3.

Southern Dallas District 3 is Ripe for Greenlining Revitalization

Southern Dallas’ District 3 has many natural attributes that can vault it to success. There are neighborhoods that have a beautiful and architecturally significant housing styles. There is an abundance of older homes with good structures. If purchased and rehabilitated, homebuyers would enjoy a mortgage payment lower than their monthly rent in government subsidized and/or tax credit apartments. District 3 also has hundreds of acres of continuous undeveloped land, much of it topographically interesting or close to trails and creeks.

Southern Dallas Land and Homes are Incredibly Inexpensive

Swiss Avenue has a beautiful landscape boulevard, Volk Estates has a series of triangle parks, and Greenway Parks has shared greenways pictures above.

Why waste exceptional and incredibly inexpensive land on apartment developers when there is a huge demand and need for single-family homes that cost less to build per square foot than apartment units? When land here is incredibly inexpensive, where even developed lots are often less than $20,000, and undeveloped acreage even less expensive, that is the time to create a neighborhood development plan that includes boulevards, parkways, greenways, triangle parks, rear alleys, underground utility lines, and high-speed Internet connectivity like those found in Volk Estates, Highland Park, Swiss Avenue, Greenway Parks, and Munger Place. As these neighborhoods develop and improve, the underlying land would appreciate in value, creating wealth for these homeowners who statistically have not had the same percentage of wealth because of their lack of access to loans, home ownership and lack of the city’s inadequate investment in the infrastructure in their neighborhoods.

Greenlining Increases Opportunities for Black and Hispanic Homebuyers to Buy Homes

Large lots accentuate desirability of Kimball Square Neighborhood.

Currently, traditionally underserved borrowers and homeowners must compete with developers of low-income apartments who are getting free government money to buy an old house that they will tear down, or to buy cheap vacant land to build subsidized and tax credit apartments. Greenlining would put a stop to free money going to apartment developers in greenlined areas where new apartments would be prohibited. Low- and middle-income homebuyers would have a level playing field and could buy older homes to fix up or inexpensive improved lots on which to build a home.

Old Homes in Need of Repair are an Underestimated Resource

One of the things I have observed over several decades watching the evolution of neighborhoods, is that well intended politicians and the privileged classes are offended by what they would consider substandard single-family housing. This is not a new phenomenon. For almost 100 years, housing reformers have made calls to raze “substandard housing because this housing is unfit for habitation.” Most recently in Dallas, we saw a political movement to force “slum landlords” to tear down their rent houses if they would not spend the money to bring them up to “minimum housing standards.” The cost of bringing these rent houses up to a city-sanctioned minimum housing standard would have cost the rent house owners over $100,000 per house for houses they were only charging the tenants $400 or $500 monthly to rent. Many of the tenants have been living in these houses for more than 10 years. Every time one of these substandard homes is torn down, there is one less opportunity for low-income residents to rent or to buy an inexpensive home and create wealth.

Even “Substandard Housing” Creates Wealth for Homeowners

Every artist and urban pioneer in the first wave of homebuyers who purchased homes in Old East Dallas in the 1970s were purchasing homes that the city considered substandard. These homes were also owned predominantly by absentee property owners who provided owner financing for the purchase of these dilapidated houses.

Since the homebuyers were predominantly white, (as were most of the transient tenants living in these divided up rent houses), most of the sympathy emanating from the politicians and privileged families across the city went to the transient tenants that these urban pioneers were allegedly displacing, not to the young artists and urban pioneers living in shabby and deplorable conditions, as they poured sweat equity into these wrecks of homes that they were fixing up.

After 45 years of neighborhood renovation and revitalization, there are still a few low-income apartments that are vacant and available for rent. As long as there are vacant apartments for rent, low-income tenants are not being displaced, particularly 45 years after the revitalization began.

Wealth Was Created for All Races and Income Groups in Old East Dallas

The greatest attribute of Old East Dallas 45 years ago was the extraordinarily inexpensive homes. These homes might not have been in good shape, but they ranged in price from $2000 in Mount Auburn to $5,000 in Junius Heights, $10,000 in Munger Place, and $20,000 on Swiss Avenue. These contiguous neighborhoods have gone up in price one-hundredfold in the last 45 years. Many of the original owners or families of the original owners still own these homes today.

Single-Family Rezoning of Munger Place, Junius Heights, Peak Suburban, Mount Auburn and Eventually Swiss Avenue Brought 100X Appreciation

This Junius Heights home is found in a Junius Heights Historic District. Originally part of the Munger Place Second Addition. Joe Kendall created an Oklahoma land rush atmosphere when a gun went off at midnight and everyone ran to stake their lot. Homes that cost $5,000 before the revitalization, now cost well over $500,000 in Junius Heights.

Forty-five years ago, Old East Dallas was struggling with many of the same problems Southern Dallas faces today. The underlying problem for both of these neighborhoods was the multifamily zoning and apartments that inhibited single-family renovation or new construction. With the support of Mayor Robert Folsom, a developer, Old East Dallas, comprised of mostly apartment houses, was rezoned single-family which led to the revitalization of neighborhoods and home prices that are 100 times as high as they were 45 years ago. Homes that cost $2,000 in Mount Auburn are now $200,000. Homes in Junius Heights that were $5,000 are now $500,000. Homes in Munger Place that were $10,000 are now $1 million, and homes on Swiss Avenue that were $20,000 are now $2 million.

Homes on Swiss Avenue that might have sold for as little as $20,000 before the neighborhood was rezoned are now worth well over $2 million.

Single-Family Rezoning Prohibited New Apartments in Old East Dallas Which Created Value and Demand for Single-family Homes

Single-family rezoning created wealth for single-family homeowners. Single-family rezoning also provided economic appreciation for the existing multifamily property owners. One family in Munger Place, who are neighbors of mine, watched their home decline in value for 30 years when the neighborhood was rezoned multifamily, and then they were able to watch their home appreciate in value for 40 years after the neighborhood was rezoned single-family.

Dilapidated housing can be an important asset that appreciates with a homeowner presence. Howard Husock wrote a recent book, The Poor Side of Town and Why We Need It. He was not arguing to keep a poor side of town. He was arguing that the poor side of town should not be kept poor but neither should dilapidated homes be torn down and replaced with apartments that displace home ownership presence. Husock gives examples of the community stability that comes with a homeowner presence in dilapidated neighborhoods. Neighborhood stability and a positive direction of the neighborhood are more important than its current physical condition.

Single-Family Homes Create Wealth for Homeowners and a Positive Direction for Neighborhoods

The two most important goals for Southern Dallas neighborhoods should be creating generational wealth for predominantly Black and Hispanic families and creating a positive direction for the neighborhoods. Redlining starved opportunities for families wanting to BUY homes with conventional financing. This accelerated the decline of these neighborhoods. Apartment zoning and, even worse, bluelining, that gave free money to developers for low-income apartments accelerated the decline of neighborhoods and eliminated opportunities for single-family home purchases and wealth creation for these traditionally underserved families.

Greenlining Creates an Environment for Traditionally Underserved Families to Purchase Single-Family Homes and Create Generational Wealth

Greenlining creates a positive direction for a neighborhood. The physical attributes of the neighborhood improve, and the home ownership presence increases. Greenlining provides more opportunities for underserved families to buy homes and create generational wealth. Greenlining also makes neighborhoods more attractive and desirable for new retail and restaurants and grocery stores to open in these areas. If the city, state, or federal governments have money or grants to spend on housing, the smart thing and the efficient thing to do is to spend it on developing infrastructure and landscaping of existing neighborhoods that make them beautiful and benefit the residents of Southern Dallas — not North Dallas or out of town or out of state developers of low-income apartments.

All of Dallas would benefit from greenlining neighborhoods in Southern Dallas. And it is something other older urban areas may consider as well.

Douglas Newby is a national award-wining real estate broker who writes about real estate, cities, architecture and Organic Urbansim. He gave the TEDx Talk Homes That Make Us Happy. You can read more about him and his work on his website Architecturally SignificantHomes: and on his blog

Lead photo: Munger Place was the first greenlined neighborhood in Dallas and the most significant greenlined neighborhood in the country. Forty-five years ago, a greenline was drawn on a map around 100 blocks containing 2,000 structures of primarily apartments and divided-up rent houses. This greenlined area was re-zoned from multi-family zoning to single-family zoning prohibiting any new apartments to be built. Federal National Morgtgage Association, Federal Housing Authorities, and local banks, committed money for loans to purchase or renovate single-family home in this greenlined area. City, State, and Federal Block Grant money was directed to this greenlined area for new curbs, sidewalks, streets, and antique street lights, in addition to lanes of traffic being replaced with green boulevards.