More affordable housing is on its way in Dallas County, made possible only through federal COVID-19 dollars.
Some of these county-backed housing projects could be completed as early as 2025.
The Dallas County Commissioners Court approved more than $4.61 million on Tuesday to help with the construction of 36 homes in Mesquite, 30 homes in Joppa and 164 senior apartments in Far East Dallas.
“All together, that’s another 230 affordable housing units in Dallas County, which is most definitely working in the right direction,” Commissioner Theresa Daniel said during their regular meeting on Tuesday.
Assistant County Administrator Jonathon Bazan said commissioners have approved 18 housing projects in the last year, and all but one rely on federal COVID-19 grant dollars. Eight of these projects are already underway as of Tuesday.
Dallas County was promised more than half a billion dollars from Congress’ American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated billions of dollars to local governments to respond to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many have struggled to find an affordable house in Dallas County. The current housing market supply is about six months of construction shy of what economists say is needed for a balanced market, The Dallas Morning News reported. The Dallas Central Appraisal District reported last year that the value of Dallas County’s 635,195 residential parcels have spiked to unprecedented levels.
The county justifies the use of federal COVID-19 dollars to build homes in Dallas County by saying lower income families felt the economic constraints of the pandemic more acutely, driving a need for new homes.
In the past year, Dallas County has spent up to $75 million in ARPA funds to provide 1,369 housing units – more than 68% of commissioners’ goal, Bazan said.
“Our commissioners have made this a top priority: from focusing on accessibility to social equity to economic equity to community development, we are looking for ways to address the workforce issues in Dallas County,” Bazan said.
While the county has always had a grant program to help cities rebuild noncompliant homes, the federal dollars have expanded the county’s foray into housing. The county is limited in how it can allocate dollars by state law, but the federal dollars allow for Dallas County to invest in projects through grants to nonprofits, covering infrastructure costs or purchasing land.
“It’s not much, but at least we can do something,” Commissioner John Wiley Price said in an interview.
Commissioners are expected to approve more housing projects across Dallas in the coming months:
Mesquite is facing a “critical shortage of affordable housing options, resulting in increased housing costs and limited choices for low-and moderate-income households,” according to the county agenda item.
The county has granted $469,000 to Inspiring You To Greatness, a nonprofit that focuses on developing affordable housing to low-to-moderate income communities.
The total project cost is expected to be more than $7 million to build 36 homes at 10079 South Beltline Road.
The city has been a good partner in moving this project forward, Price said in an interview. He pointed out that it can be a good thing to promote smaller-sized projects so communities are more integrated.
“One of the things that historically happened – we cluster all the people of like-incomes together,” Price said. ” You don’t have that here.”
Construction is planned to start early 2024, Bazan said.
The Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity plans to build 30 more affordable for-sale homes in the Dallas neighborhood of Joppa with $1.64 million from the county’s ARPA coffers.
William Eubanks, the CEO of the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, said in a letter to Dallas County staff that the nonprofit has already built more than 1,900 homes in 25 Dallas County communities – 100 in Joppa.
The county’s funds will cover the cost of infrastructure and water and sewer utilities for this project. The homes will be for purchase by families earning less than 80% of the area median income, or $82,500 for a family of four according to this year’s federal income estimates.
Eubanks’ told commissioners that homeowners will be offered 0% interest on mortgage financing.
“We will now deliver another 30 homes to 30 deserving families who will then get out of the cycle of poverty and become homeowners,” he said at the meeting.
The project is also in Price’s district. He said he is hoping that the project will eventually include more homes. He echoed Eubanks’ comments, saying these projects need to also educate.
“You have to teach people homeownership,” Price said.
The project is slated to be completed in the first quarter of 2026.
Far East Dallas
One project in Far East Dallas is specifically tailored to limited-income seniors. Generation Housing Partners’ project at 9220 Ferguson Road is for “active” seniors making 50% AMI and 60% AMI– or $40,200 a year for one person.
Dallas County has promised $2.5 million to cover more than half of the cost of purchasing land.
County documents estimate the project would provide 164 affordable units. Plans for the five-acre community include a fitness center and classes, a dog park, hair salon, community rooms, a pool, and a theater room, according to the county court order.
The project is expected to be completed in May 2025.