As described by former President Jimmy Carter, its most famous volunteer, Habitat for Humanity embodies the principle of giving a hand up to those who need it.
Since Habitat’s founding in the mid-1970s, legions of volunteers, many of them high school and college students, have helped low-income Americans achieve the dream of home ownership by building entry-level houses for those living at or below the poverty line.
A higher income strata … would likely include first-responders, teachers, and others who earn about $75,000 or $85,000 annually for a family of four.
Now, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, the largest Habitat affiliate in the nation, is expanding the reach of the organization’s helping hand to include middle-income citizens.
In addition to providing housing for lower-income families — those with incomes no higher than $38,000 for a family of four — Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity is making homes available for those in a higher income strata that officials say would likely include first-responders, teachers, and others who earn about $75,000 or $85,000 annually for a family of four.
Bill Hall, CEO of Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, said the new strategy is designed not only to expand homeowner opportunities in the nation’s ninth-largest city, but to reverse the exodus of middle-income Dallas residents who are flocking to the suburbs in search of lower prices.
“We’re just focused on creating a stronger city.”
“I believe Dallas needs to pull the middle class back into the city limits,” said Hall, warning that the departure of middle-income workers threatens the quality of existing neighborhoods as well as the city’s tax base. “We’re just focused on creating a stronger city.”
PLANS TO CONSTRUCT 100 HOMES THROUGH MID-SUMMER
Dallas Area Habitat created and partnered with two entities to carry out the initiative — a nonprofit construction company to build the houses and a nonprofit mortgage firm to arrange the financing.
The new program started in 2016 and escalated this year with the planned construction of at least 100 homes through mid-summer, primarily in western and southern Dallas. Average prices are $145,000 for a single-story home of about 1,200 square feet and $165,000 to $170,000 for a two-story encompassing about 1,500 square feet, said Glenn Dixon, co-president of Habitat’s home-building company, Dallas Neighborhood Alliance for Habitat.
Average prices are $145,000 for a single-story home of about 1,200 square feet and $165,000 to $170,000 for a two-story [of] about 1,500 square feet.
Those prices are well below the prevailing norm in Dallas, where home values have risen 15.4 percent over the past year and are expected to rise another 5.8 percent within the following 12 months, according to Zillow, an online real estate data company. The median price of homes currently listed in Dallas, according to Zillow, is $390,000.
One beneficiary of Habitat’s expanded outreach is Shawanda Brown, a single mother with a 9-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl who moved from a small second-floor apartment into a new home built by the Habitat construction company in southern Dallas County. The address is in Lancaster, but is “just minutes” from the Dallas city limits, said Brown, a medical receptionist who works for a doctor in DeSoto.
The $142,000 home, where Brown and her children have lived since December, features three bedrooms, two baths, and a two-car garage and is located in what Brown calls a “good quiet” neighborhood.
“I love it,” she said recently. “It’s beyond what I was looking for in a home.”
“I nailed the first nail, and I put the last shingle on the roof. There’s no feeling like it.”
Habitat for Humanity International was established in 1976 and became one of the country’s best-known volunteer organizations with the aid of former President Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. The former first couple have not only helped the Georgia-based organization through fundraising and promotional activities, but have also donned hard-hats and wielded carpentry tools to build houses alongside other volunteers.
The 39th president repeatedly has praised the organization, saying it “brings together people of different backgrounds and stations in life to create an environment in which everyone is equal.”
NEW DALLAS INITIATIVE IS ‘FIRST OF ITS KIND’ FOR HABITAT
Dallas Area Habitat was founded by volunteers in 1986 and has served more than 1,600 low-income families, resulting in a $150 million investment in 25 Dallas-area neighborhoods.
Habitat families pay nearly $2 million annually in property taxes in Dallas County.
Habitat families pay nearly $2 million annually in property taxes in Dallas County, according to the organization’s website. Sixty-eight percent of Dallas Habitat’s homeowners are female, said Stacey Malcolmson, Dallas Area Habitat’s executive vice president of external affairs.
Today, Habitat is the largest nonprofit homebuilder in Dallas and continues to rely heavily on volunteers to put low-income residents into their own home.
Laquita Royal, 44, has lived for two years in a west Dallas home that she helped construct with a group of volunteers, despite previously non-existent carpentry skills.
“I nailed the first nail, and I put the last shingle on the roof,” she said. “There’s no feeling like it.”
Other Dallas Area Habitat initiatives include a “Neighborhood Empowerment” effort to revitalize existing neighborhoods and an apprentice program to train and employ graduating high school students as well as non-violent ex-offenders. Habitat’s services also include nonprofit home improvement and decor outlets called ReStores.
The initiative aimed at providing homes for middle-income residents is believed to the first of its kind in the national Habitat for Humanity network and encompasses the partner mortgage banker Dallas Neighborhood Homes and the home-building company Dallas Neighborhood Alliance.
Through the mortgage firm, Hall said, Dallas Habitat “will be better able to stand in the gap between the banks and the borrowers” by helping families gain access to affordable mortgages. The firm offers nonprofit mortgages for low- to moderate-income families that earn up to 120 percent area median income, or $85,000 per year for a family four.
DNA, the construction company, started building in August. Dixon, the co-president, said the company is on track to build 100 homes by the end of the current fiscal year in July, including subdivisions in West Dallas, southeast Dallas, Balch Springs, and the Joppa area, which was initially settled by freed slaves in the 1860s. The company has a waiting list of at least 25 families.
Dixon calls the Habitat company a “very good organization” that he said is responding to a crucial need by offering affordable homes in Dallas.
“We have a lot of community empowerment,” he said.
Photos courtesy of Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.