DENTON (UNT), Texas — More than ten years ago, researchers from the University of North Texas identified and measured the most blighted areas of Dallas in a study commissioned by Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.
Now, the same researchers have shared their follow-up assessment to determine if urban blight has changed in Dallas since 2011. The blight study incorporated physical indicators such as abandoned and demolished properties along with socioeconomic risk factors like poverty, unemployment and whether a household is rented or has a single parent.
“A blighted area adversely affects the health, safety and welfare of its residents, making it a crucial issue for neighborhoods across the country to address,” said Nicole Dash, dean of UNT’s College of Health and Public Service. “In HPS, our mission and vision are focused on advancing the health and welfare of communities, and important work like this project and others in the college aim to better society as a whole.”
Led by UNT professor Simon Andrew and associate professor Hee Soun Jang, the study created a "composite blight index" by superimposing physical aspects over socioeconomic characteristics. Secondary data for the index was made available from the U.S. Census, Dallas County Appraisal District, Dallas City Hall and other public agencies.
As the research progressed, Andrew said it became clear the conditions that contribute to urban blight are often intertwined.
“Numerous cities across the country have been plagued by blight and make concerted efforts to adopt blight reduction strategies," said Andrew, chair of UNT's Department of Public Administration. “We can now share detected patterns that could provide the basis for future intervention.”
One of the most significant findings showed that the number of census tracts, or geographic areas, suffering from the highest levels of blight in 2011 had decreased from 51 to 31 by 2021. This equates to a difference of about 35 square miles. Most of these census tracts were found in Dallas’ southern neighborhoods such as Fair Park and Oak Cliff.
“These results do not quantify blight block-by-block, which is how residents experience it,” said Andrew. “A more comprehensive understanding of blight will require engaging additional local organizations and the residents they serve. Their experiences and insights are an important source of information for those working to prevent and eradicate blight.”
Andrew and Jang hope their data will be useful to city officials, nonprofit organizations, neighborhood associations and community leaders eager to help Dallas become more cohesive and economically vibrant.
“We’re incredibly proud of the significant progress Dallas has made over the last decade, and we believe our work at Dallas Habitat for Humanity has been a driving force behind this progress,” said William Eubanks III, CEO of Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. “Our mission has always been to transform families and revitalize neighborhoods, and we feel this study is proof that our efforts are making a real impact. While the results show positive change, there is still much work to be done — we remain as committed as ever to creating a Dallas where all residents have a decent place to live.”
About Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity
Through affordable homeownership opportunities, financial education, advocacy, and neighborhood empowerment programs, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity transforms families, revitalizes neighborhoods, and is working together to build a better Dallas. Strategically bringing together public and private funding, community leadership and vision, and thousands of volunteers — we will break the cycle of poverty and transform our communities. Using affordable homeownership as an anchor for hope, change, and stability, Dallas Habitat has served more than 1,700 low-income families since 1986, resulting in an investment of approximately $179 million in more than 25 Dallas area neighborhoods.