With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (in photo above holding toddler in pink) was constantly on the lookout for mold. "Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not." After learning that the Dallas housing code offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.
During over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.” FOX News calls the code the "toughest landlord rules in the state." Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, "this is unprecedented."
New protections include:
With City Council signalling support for significant reforms in the Dallas rental housing code, Dallas Morning News gave kudos to Dallas Area Interfaith for keeping “these issues on the council’s radar and set[ting] the stage for many of the most important tweaks in the code.” For the first time, the Dallas code would require inspections of the insides of single-family rentals and more frequent inspections of multi-family housing complexes.
Towards that end, the city manager’s proposed budget calls for hiring 15 additional code enforcement officers to handle the expanded responsibilities.Read more
- passage of a payday lending ordinance in the City of Arlington
- work with a local public hospital to expand access to a clinic program
- leveraging of funds for city-wide after-school programming
Bishop Olson ended the letter with words of encouragement towards "improving the lives of the people of the Diocese of Fort Worth and Texas."
In the midst of pushing for expanded community policing and pay increases for officers, Dallas Area Interfaith wants to get all sides listening to each other.
“We have to humanize each other,” said Rev. Jon Morrison of Cedar Crest Church of Christ. Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul noted there must be "conversations on race. You cannot separate race from dealing with the inequity in the community.”
[Photo Credit: Spencer Platt, Getty Images / FOX]Read more
At a community meeting organized by Dallas Area Interfaith, there were no easy platitudes in reference to the Thursday night shooting of police officers and protesters that left five officers dead. ”There is a repentance that has to happen in this nation,” preached Pastor Carl Sherman to the crowd gathered at Southern Hill Church of Christ. More than a dozen officers, from six law enforcement agencies across the Metroplex, sat in the pews alongside civilians to hear their public service praised and critiqued.
“Building trust is how we are going to get better policing,” said Josephine Lopez-Paul, the lead organizer of Dallas Area Interfaith. Click here for statement.Read more
In a tightly packed special meeting of City Council, over 100 Dallas Area Interfaith leaders spilled into overflow areas in support of new regulations that would give greater protections to Dallas renters. Leader Ericka Ventura (at podium in photo above) declared the organization’s support for proposed regulations that they had helped create, including more frequent inspections, higher standards for air conditioning and water heating, more explicit steps for mold remediation and stiffer penalties for landlords.
Dr. Barry Lachman, Asthma Coalition of Texas president (and leader with Beth Shalom) said he was “appalled” by what he saw in a tour of apartment complexes in the Bachman Lake area.
Rev. Jesus Belmontes of San Juan Diego Catholic Church argued that poor living conditions hurt children the most, asserting that Dallas “has failed its most vulnerable.”Read more
Bachman Lake residents lined up at the podium with photos depicting bedbugs, mold, leaky windows and malfunctioning air conditioning — all of which came from a neighborhood inspection of apartments involving 60 resident leaders – organized byDallas Area Interfaith. On Monday, resident leaders held a press conference urging the city’s Housing Committee to adopt their recommendations in a bid to toughen up Dallas’ housing code. One leader, Patricia Vega, has two children with asthma living in an apartment with mold in the bedroom and a broken window that leaks when it rains. Said Dr. Barry Lachman, President of the Asthma Coalition of Texas and leader with Temple Shalom, “no family should ever have to live under the conditions we saw in Bachman Lake.”
The housing committee agreed, and city council will vote on the proposal next month.
Said one Dallas Morning News columnist:
“There was a time I thought of Dallas Area Interfaith as a well-intentioned moral voice for the downtrodden. But now I am seeing a politically smart organization that is acting on…issues from payday loans to substandard housing.”
The fight started last fall, when a group of church women approached DAI to learn what their rights were. Months later, and after several parish assemblies at San Juan Diego Catholic Church, resident leaders got a seat at the table. They recommended that the city strengthen its minimum standards for rental housing by requiring that landlords pursue proper bedbug fumigation and mold cleanup when asked, and guarantee functioning air conditioning — particularly during summer months. DAI also asked for improved record keeping, expanded inspections and more meaningful enforcement.Read more
“It all started with a group of women,” said Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) organizer Walker Moore, that “wanted to know what their rights were.” With the guidance of DAI, the ladies went on to organize several meetings — at local churches and in apartments — to formulate a strategy to address mold, dilapidation and crime.
In November, extra chairs had to be hauled out to accommodate 160 people who gathered at San Juan Diego Catholic Church at a meeting in which they brought specific issues with apartment conditions straight to the police chief and City of Dallas elected officials. They and the audience listened with approval as Mayor Pro Tem Monica Alonzo and Roberto Garcia, a Dallas police senior corporal, vowed to help the residents.
DAI leaders have since submitted a list of the worst apartments they have seen to the city’s community prosecution code team, and are currently working altering the city code to increase the frequency of mandatory apartment inspections.
[Photo Credit: Nathan Hunsinger / Dallas Morning News]Read more
After undergoing a congregational development process in partnership with the North Texas IAF that involved 3,000 parishioners – 600 of which participated in small group encounters led by 80 ministry leaders — leaders of St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas were astounded by the number of stories about payday lending.
Dozens of “horror stories” detailed the debilitating effect of predatory loans on families, motivating parish leaders to work with their organizer address the problem locally. In October, parish leaders stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending. And within one month, leaders — along with allies — celebrated success.
Arlington City Council members voted unanimously to become the first city in Tarrant County to “cap loans and require payday and auto title businesses to register and adhere to fair business practices.”Read more
To those concerned about anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, Huffington Post writer Carol Kuruvilla recommended to “get involved with your local interfaith network.” She cites Dallas Area Interfaith organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul:
Working together toward a common cause is what really builds interfaith relations, according to Josephine Lopez Paul, Lead Organizer of the advocacy group Dallas Area Interfaith. “These protests and rallies come and go,” Lopez Paul told HuffPost. “But the slow patient work remains.”