Old Mill sale may leave Section 8 residents behind

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Photo by Rebecca Rosen

For the past 10 months, Tower Village has been making Trina’s wishes come true. She has been saving up money to start a private daycare, her kindergartner has been getting straight A’s, and best of all, she is not homeless. At least for now.

Trina is a single 37-year-old mother, and one of a dozen residents who pay their rent at Tower Village using Section 8 housing vouchers.

For most University of Dallas Students, Tower Village is really just Old Mill, a place close enough to campus but far enough away from the administration’s reach that it’s worth putting up with the insect infestations, the iffy air-conditioning and the less than lovely atmosphere.

But for Trina and others who rely on affordable housing, Tower Village is much more than a site for parties and a college crash pad. The complex to them is one of the few affordable places left where they can get a safe home in an area that is close to job opportunities.

Trina, who asked that her last name not be used, has lived with her son in Tower Village since Dec. 2016. Before that, they were homeless. The Section 8 voucher she gets from the federal government each month pays the difference between Trina’s rent and what she can afford based on her income.

The complex “was the second apartment on the list [the shelter] gave me, and they accepted me right away,” Trina said.

Trina officially moved in on Jan. 31, and has settled in. She works two jobs, at Amazon and H & H Healthcare, not too far from her apartment. She can walk her son to the bus stop.  

“It’s quiet over here, easy access over here,” Trina said. “It’s easy for me to get my son on and off the school bus.”  

For Trina, the news that the university is selling Tower Village means something far different than it means for most students.

Her lease is up this December.

The complex’s new owners, SB Pacific, have announced they will no longer offer the affordable housing tax credit program — a program that the university accepted and that incentivized management to take in Section 8 residents.

Centra Partners have taken over the property management of Tower Village. They have made it clear that while no new Section 8 residents will be taken in, whether current Section 8 residents can renew their leases will be decided on a “case by case basis according to their [section 8 residents’] specific needs,” Jana Mobarak, the regional supervisor for Centra, told The University News in August.

She did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

In early September, when Trina heard the ownership of Tower Village had changed, she called right away to see if she would still be able to live there.

A Tower Village employee told her that management would call her back when they had information for her. They have yet to call.

If Centra Partners will not renew Trina’s lease, it will be difficult for her to find affordable housing as quickly as she did last year.

More and more Dallas property managers, including Centra Partners, have opted out of the affordable housing tax credit program, according to a survey conducted by The Inclusive Communities Project, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing affordable housing to the Dallas area.

Though the affordable housing program offers tax deductions to owners, the program comes with more restrictions on rent control, making the economic benefits it proposes less enticing, the survey showed.

Another issue affecting the availability of Section 8 housing is the increase in those in need after their homes were destroyed by  Hurricane Harvey. The anticipated influx of people from Houston into Dallas will make finding low income housing even more competitive, according to research published by The Dallas Morning News.

Whether Trina can find another affordable housing option, the cost of moving out of Tower Village will deplete her savings, uproot her son and put her current work schedule in jeopardy, she said.

Her dream to start a daycare will be that much harder to realize, she fears.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Trina said, tears filling her eyes. “I don’t want to leave, I really don’t want to leave.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that SB Pacific are the new owners of Tower Village, while Centra Partners are the property managers.

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