‘Opportunity Index’ for Dallas

Robert Mundinger
Feb 27, 2018 · 7 min read

Dallas has the highest rate of Child Poverty in the country. These are ‘children’ (0–5 year old’s) that we are failing. If you think that people who live in bad neighborhoods have to because of their own bad choices, then you can at least concede that a child hasn’t even had time to make a bad choice — yet their social mobility is curbed significantly because of where they grow up.

You can scoff at location being that big of a deal in your outcome in life, but it is. Neighborhoods make people who they are more than you think.

Life is easier when you live in certain parts of Dallas. Jobs are closer, there’s less crime, less blight, grocery stores are closer, there’s more WiFi access, banks and doctor’s offices. There is more wealth and less unemployment. More kids go to college, more adults have jobs and there is a visible expectation of success for kids growing up the neighborhood.

Poor kids achieve more growing up in better neighborhoods, regardless of a change in their parents income.

As Opportunity Dallas states in their recommendations:

Research shows that when low-income children are able to access a high opportunity neighborhood, their life outcomes can improve dramatically, which, in turn, helps break cycles of generational poverty. According to research from Raj Chetty, when low-income children can access mixed-income areas, educational outcomes and college attendance improves; they’re more likely to get married and have children with a father present; they earn dramatically more income over their lifetime; and they pay more in income taxes and are less likely to be on assistance.

There is more crime in these area. They spend more of their percentage of income on rent and transportation and they’re likely to have to spend more time getting to work (because jobs aren’t in these neighborhoods), more time going to get food and have less options for healthy food. This time and cost burden compounds. This is why they say being poor is expensive.

Rent / Income Ratios

Great, equitable neighborhoods are vital to a great city. A recent study in Chicago found that just reducing economic and racial segregation to just the median level would generate $8 billion in economic output, reduce the murder rate by 30%, give African American residents $3,000 more per year and raise the number of Bachelor’s degrees earned by 83,000 leading to $90 billion in collective lifetime earnings. And that’s just lowering segregation to just the median level!

Segregation COSTS.

How do we do help fix this?

Led by Mike Koprowski, Opportunity Dallas spent a year devising a set of recommendations through a Policy Task Force made up of a diverse set of stakeholders. They bucketed their recommendations into 4 categories:

  1. curb negative aspects of gentrification

2. allow low income families to access high Opportunity Areas

3. increase affordable housing supply

4. revitalize high poverty neighborhoods

Data Driven Approach

But none of this works without data — what is a ‘high poverty neighborhood?’, where is there already affordable housing, how do you identify gentrification is happening before it’s too late to do anything about it? What neighborhoods promote the most social mobility?

We worked to create this data set, which we call the Opportunity Index — (meanwhile the city has done a fantastic job doing similar work with their MVA analysis).

This data is needed to apply incentives to developers to build affordable units and to have a smart way to implement housing policy.

This data is vital to spur ACTION. We’ve all seen many maps that show Dallas is more impoverished in South Dallas. We don’t need any more of those. But this data can now actually be placed into formulas that create incentives to make our city more equitable and less segregated.

What’s the formula?

We picked 14 indicators from various sources and aggregated those into an ‘Opportunity Score’ for each tract.

Where are the Opportunity Areas?

What does each bucket (quartile) look like?

Many thanks to Zak Ostertag of The Commit Partnership for his fantastic work in building the model based on the data.

Look up your address:

We also created a tool to allow you to look up an address and see the ‘Opportunity Score’ for that area.


You can view and download more detailed recommendations here:

We have to thank Mike Koprowski for all of this. He has been a leader in this city. He is now going to Washington DC to join the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) as the national director of a new multisector housing campaign.

This is a HUGE short term loss for Dallas, but likely a fantastic long term gain for the country.

Here is his statement.

And here is a very short summary of each recommendation (more detailed explanations here):

1. Curb negative aspects of gentrification

Recommendation 1.1: Develop a Neighborhood Change Index (NCI) — a gentrification early warning system

Recommendation 1.2: Consider a tax abatement policy for existing low income homeowners in areas considered susceptible to gentrification by the NCI

Recommendation 1.3: policy that prioritizes the use of TIFs in gentrifying areas labeled by the NCI

Recommendation 1.4: explore creation of Homestead Preservation Districts (HPDs) based on the NCI

Recommendation 1.5: targeted land banking policy

Recommendation 1.6: high NCI levels trigger an automatic and institutionalized community input process

Recommendation 1.7: Program — homebuyer assistance program

Recommendation 1.8: Program — home improvement/repair program

Recommendation 1.9: formal relocation assistance policy

2. Allow low income families to access high Opportunity Areas

Recommendation 2.1: Pass a source of income non-discrimination ordinance

Recommendation 2.2: sublease/guarantor program

Recommendation 2.3: regional voucher mobility assistance program

Recommendation 2.4: creation of an “affordability exchange” — a user friendly easy to search way to find affordable units

Recommendation 2.5: require every project reviewed by the Office of Fair Housing to make sure it’ll affirmatively further far housing and complies with the Fair Housing Act

Recommendation 2.6: clear LIHTC placement policy which sends guidance to developers in terms of what the city is likely to support with Housing Tax Credits

3. Increase affordable housing supply

Recommendation 3.1: Accessory Dwelling Units (“garage apartments”) — allow homeowners the right to choose if they want to rent their ADU

Recommendation 3.2: Voluntary Inclusionary Zoning — package or incentives for developers to set aside a percentage of affordable units in their market-rate developments

Recommendation 3.3: Dallas Housing Fund — a fund that helps finance these incentives for developers (over 470 cities have these)

Recommendation 3.4: Government entities like the City of Dallas and DISD should consider affordable housing when they sell their land

Recommendation 3.5: Suggested guidelines (a ‘best practice manual’) to ensure well-designed affordable housing that engenders inclusive communities

4. Revitalize high poverty neighborhoods

Recommendation 4.1: designate a small number of holistic revitalization areas and ‘go deep’ — address multiple challenges in the same area

Recommendation 4.2: if an area is pegged for holistic revitalization, this triggers a community input process

Recommendation 4.3: pooling and concentration of resources from various public and private agencies in the same area (i.e. City of Dallas, DISD both spend bond money in same area)

Recommendation 4.4: Invest dollars in a multi-year, cross-sectoral way (housing, education, health, etc. all addressed in these holistic areas)

Recommendation 4.5: policy to prioritize land banking to clean up tax delinquent, abandoned and vacant properties

Recommendation 4.6: policy to ensure anti-displacement from the beginning

Recommendation 4.7: ensure eventual phased in approach of best practices for all communities and make sure that engaging residents happens in order to do work with communities, not to them

5. Racial Impact Statements

Recommendation 5.1: policy should require a racial impact statement to accompany housing agenda items put up for a council vote


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Robert Mundinger

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Founder of TheMap — technology, cities, mapping



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