North Texas Daily

UNT researchers discuss new Dallas blight index

UNT researchers discuss new Dallas blight index

UNT researchers discuss new Dallas blight index
August 29
19:01 2013

Stacy Aguilar / Staff Writer

Researchers from UNT presented a new “composite blight index” created to identify blighted communities on Thursday morning. The Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity commissioned the study.

About 18 months ago, DAHfH staff wanted measurable research about the issue of blight in Dallas communities in which the surrounding physical and social conditions threaten the health and safety of neighborhood residents.

Blight has a significant impact on a city’s finances and resources. Although cities across the country are impacted by blight, it has been historically difficult to define, track and reduce.

To accommodate, researchers at UNT developed a composite index using only secondary data from public agencies, such as the U.S. Census Data, data from the U.S. Postal Service and data provided by the Dallas City Hall. After accumulating data through public requests, they superimposed physical characteristics over socioeconomic characteristics.

This is one of the few times research has looked at both the physical and social aspects of a space to determine its condition. The result is a composite blight index that can be used by other cities to better understand and ultimately reduce blight.

“[UNT] is a university that wants to be part of the community,” said Dean Thomas Evenson, a representative of UNT and the College of Public Affairs and Community Service. “Much of our mission is focused on strengthening the community and actually making [our] research make an impact.”

Instead of focusing on a specific neighborhood, the team knew blight was an issue for the whole city, both economically and socially.

“It’s not a neighborhood issue, it’s a city issue,” said Bill Hall, the chief executive officer of DAHfH.

As a result of this need to consistently define blight, the team wanted to ensure the research was repeatable and cost effective.

“A lot of organizations do things one [time]. But at Habitat, we wanted something that could easily be repeated year after year at low cost,” Hall said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings was enthusiastic about the ways this measure of blight can be used to benefit the well-being of Dallas and its citizens.

“When I think of where some people live, they are not safe,” Rawlings said. “They do not have the opportunity to live a healthy life.”

Graphic courtesy of UNT

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