Rent prices in Dallas make it difficult to have a steady income
With seemingly no other options, Hector Hernandez and Alicia Sanchez decided last year to live together in a small duplex in Dallas. The two live on a fixed income and couldn’t find a place they could afford in the city, so they teamed up in November 2022.
Each of them has one double side. With twin beds on either side, it was cramped but worked for a while. That was until the person they hired couldn’t own the place anymore. For the past two months, they have had to find a new home. They were not used to living with other people, so they decided to try this time to find housing that each of them could afford on their own. They did (sort of), but now their finances are tighter than ever.
The two appeared in observer A story last May about trying to live on a fixed income during the housing crisis. We are in a crisis. According to the Child Poverty Action Lab, Dallas lacks more than 33,000 affordable rental units for people who earn 50% or less of the area median income — people like Hernandez and Sanchez. According to Rentcafe.com, the average apartment rent in Dallas is around $1,592.
Hernandez and Sanchez had their own places at the Oakridge Apartments in Oak Cliff. Hernandez has lived there since 2020. Sanchez had resided there since 2006. In the summer of 2022, the complex was sold to new owners who said they would raise the rent, effectively pricing Hernandez and Sanchez out of their homes. At that point, the only place they could find that they could both afford was a boarding house in the city called El Shaddai for about $650 a month each. While at the boarding house, the two talked and decided to try staying together in a nearby duplex, but that only lasted a few months.
Now, Sanchez, 70, is at a place called The Oaks. It is a Dallas Housing Authority property for people 62 and older. She pays about $1,050 for rent there. Meanwhile, Hernandez, a 49-year-old blind man, resides at a place called Forest Dale in North Dallas. It costs about $1,100 per month. They each get about $1,200 a month from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The two now spend between 80% and 91% of their fixed income on rent. When they lived together in the duplex, they split the rent at about $1,500 a month.
“This is the face of people entering homelessness.” -Lisa Marshall, Combating Homelessness
Lisa Marshall, a local housing activist, is helping them start a group called Fight Homelessness. It supplements Hernandez and Sanchez’s rent by $400 each, but they still barely have enough to cover their other expenses each month. Marshall hoped to help Hernandez find a job so he could have more wiggle room, but it was difficult.
“We support donors’ money so they can eat,” Marshall said. “There’s nothing left.”
She said she is looking for any other source of income that might help them. “Once donor money runs out, I’m not sure what we’ll do,” she said. “This is the face of people entering homelessness,” Marshall said of Hernandez and Sanchez. “These are not people who were in a camp somewhere, for God’s sake. They were living independently on their own on a very fixed income — SSDI — that no longer covers Rent anymore.
Even though they live in different areas now, Hernandez and Sanchez still talk on the phone almost every day to check up on each other. Sanchez said she likes her new place but it’s a little quiet for her.
Hernandez is a little less optimistic about his new living situation. He said his water heater didn’t seem to work all the time, and his air conditioner had recently been disconnected. “So, it’s hotter here than it is there,” he added. “I don’t feel comfortable here anymore.” He hopes to move back into the duplex with Sanchez even though they were sharing living quarters. “We didn’t have our own space, so we were getting on each other’s nerves and things like that,” Hernandez said. “We would get into heated arguments, but I still worried about her and still cared for her,” he said.
Hernandez is already looking forward to the lease expiring on his current apartment, and is hoping to convince Sanchez to find a new place with him to split the rent. He’s not sure if she will, but he said, “Being on my own, there’s nothing I can afford on my income.”
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “Even if I have to live with rats, with addicts and prostitutes, as long as this is something I can bear, because this is too much.”
With his rent supplemented by Marshall and fighting homelessness, Hernandez said he now pays nearly what he paid when he previously lived alone. “Everything is double what it was before, so I have almost no money left,” he said.
According to Apartment List’s October national rent report, rents in Dallas have risen 21% since March 2020.
Hernandez said he is optimistic about the future, but can sometimes feel like everything is out of his control. “I have mixed emotions and conflicting feelings about everything that’s going on,” he said. “I feel like we’re ping pong balls because we’re going back and forth, back and forth, this way and that, and I’m tired, man.”
(Tags for translation) Housing