Habitat's $100 Million "Dream Dallas" Initiative Will Uplift Neighborhoods, Not Just Houses

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Photos by Leslie Minora
Mayor Rawlings calls the $100 million Habitat investment "big news" for Dallas.
Dallas Habitat for Humanity, which already claims to be the biggest single-family home builder in the city, will knock down and build more than 500 more homes in a $100 million blitz on the city's blighted neighborhoods. The project, called Dream Dallas, was formally announced today at City Hall and is funded by a slew of deep-pocketed individuals and organizations, among them Marianne and Roger Staubach, the Harold Simmons Foundation and Allyn Media's Mari Woodlief.

Former city council candidate Brint Ryan, Highland Park United Methodist Church and the Rees-Jones Foundation all donated a million dollars or more to the project, which will focus on five neighborhoods: Bonton, South Dallas-Fair Park, Joppa, Lancaster Transportation Corridor, and West Dallas.

To get an idea of the initiative's scope, consider that in its 25 years of existence, the Dallas Habitat for Humanity has invested $95 million in tearing down and building houses -- meaning that in the next two years, the organization plans to spend more than it hasin the past 25. For the majority of its past, Habitat's focus has been on building one house at a time, but this project marks a notable shift from individual homes to "revitalizing entire neighborhoods," as Dallas Habitat CEO Bill Hall said at this afternoon's press conference in the Flag Room.

"This is big news," said Mayor Mike Rawlings. "South Dallas has a great future, but we need three things," housing, retail and jobs. He said the city of Dallas wants to work closely with Habitat for Humanity: "We want to make sure that your money is taken to the next level," he said, calling the future building of affordable homes "critical."

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Several times more houses will be built than the amount of adorable house-shaped cookies at the event.
"Our goal is to raise and spend $100 million" by the end of 2014, said Mike Gruber, chair of the Dream Dallas Advisory Council. Such changes will reduce crime, foster education, and revitalize neighborhoods, he said. So far, nearly $50 million has been donated to the Dream Dallas project, and another $22 million has been secured.

"All we have to do is raise $30 million more," Gruber said, inviting a few chuckles and possibly a couple donation considerations.

"[Donating to Dream Dallas] was an easy decision," Ryan told the crowd. The numbers, he said, speak for themselves: Habitat homeowners have a less than three percent default rate on their mortgages, and the program raises more than $2 million annually in property taxes for the city. Every dollar donated to Habitat results in a $3.18 return on investment. He took a tour of neighborhoods Habitat planned to revitalize, and said he had no idea how run-down certain areas were. "Frankly folks, I didn't realize ... and that's what got me motivated," he said

Aisha Thomas, who moved into a Habitat home in 2006, called being a homeowner "a dream come true. ... I never thought we would own a home, but we do," she said.

Police Chief David Brown also spoke briefly, adding that "this is transformation in a public safety area as well."

This event also marks a huge boost to two of Mayor Rawlings's priorities: improving South Dallas and boosting the city's economy. Unfair Park talked to him about how improving housing in run-down neighborhoods can act as a catalyst in economic revitalization. Rawlings said he considers South Dallas "the community that we need to focus on to provide the biggest bang for the buck."

Investments in South Dallas have a greater rate of return than many other areas around Dallas-Fort Worth, he said. He added that when he says "South Dallas," he also means "West Dallas," where the "issues and dynamics" overlap greatly.

"The first step is to get affordable housing," Rawlings said. Now that Habitat has that in the works, the mayor's working on a plan "about economic development that will wrap around this development." He'll be releasing details in a month or two, he said.

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Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Once again, posters never cease to amaze.  First, I'm guessing that it helps Habitat to get the press to show up if they ask the Mayor, council members and police chief to show up as well.  Secondly, the amount of money raised does not just pay for the build cost. It pays for land acquisition and certain infrastructure as well.  Habitat's homeowners also contribute to funding because their payments go back into building more houses. Habitat represents the very best of the charitable community and charitable heart.  This is all good folks.  If you are looking for something to be negative about, pick another post.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

If you want the press to show up all you have to do is schedule the press conference at 12:15, open the doors at 11:30 and serve a half-decent lunch.  Pizza Mike and the police chief hardly rise to the level of star power.  I have a feeling the Mayor and the chief wanted to be there more than HFH wanted or needed them,  Also, HFH is as good of an organization as you can ask for, so why do they want to sully themselves attaching themselves to cheap politicians?

Brenda Marks
Brenda Marks

Primi -- you obviously haven't tried to get the press out recently on behalf of a charitable organization with nothing but good news.  And you don't have to take my word for it, try Google or Charity Navigator or other independent sources.  Or better yet, just bitch. You seem to be quite good at that.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Brenda,Yes you are right, I have never called a press conference of any kind but I have known quite a few of the types who go to them, and unless someone from DO or the DMN convinces me otherwise, I am pretty sure a good spread will bring them in.  But all of this begs the question "why does HFH really care if there is a lot of attendance?"  I mean how many meaningful local new organizations are there?  Too many for a few phone calls to add a little color to the press release?  Does it really affect its fund raising or operations.  It looks like they are doing just fine pre-press conference.

Thank you for following my posts; I had no idea you are such an avid fan.  I hope to live up to your descriptive verb half as much as you live up to the noun.

Paul
Paul

500 homes for $100,000,000 ... that is $200,000 per home!

That is quite a house.

I guess that they must be going through Wai-Wize for the minority participation.

What is going on?

Cliff Dweller
Cliff Dweller

Well they're also demolishing some buildings which costs money and wasn't there something about refurbishing some in addition to building new ?  You can't really say until you've seen a budget. . .

Paul
Paul

The DMN story reported 1,000 homes but that is still $100k per home.

I won't go into details as to how I know, but something isn't quite right given the typical homes that HFH builds.

To buy, scrape and build a 1500 sf home should easily be done for under 100K.

StraitUp
StraitUp

"Every thing in the Souther Sector goes through Willis Johnson." Dont ever forget that Pal!!!! 

cp
cp

I was wondering the same thing. I hate to knock Habitat, but in the other article it said they spent $95 million and (as the "largest single-family homebuilder" in Dallas) built 900 homes. But hey, that's over a 25-year period so I suppose we should account for inflation.....

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

As this is a Habitat for Humanity project, what does the mayor, and especially the police chief, have to do with this project?  Is the city contributing land or money? 

JD
JD

No, they cant tell you that yet! Related to other issues yet to surface. 

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