While Dallas County’s housing values soar, the county has been quietly purchasing land and planning projects throughout the pandemic that could add up to 1,321 affordable housing units.
The county says with the help of federal COVID-19 dollars, it’s just getting started.
The commissioners want to add 2,000 affordable units to the Dallas County housing supply by 2026. Assistant County Administrator Jonathon Bazan said the county aims to have the planning portion of its projects completed by April to meet the goal in the next four years.
“We believe that we can get them done,” he said.
Two commissioners, Theresa Daniel and Elba Garcia, have had a heavy hand in moving through the projects. Daniel sees these projects as part of the answer to the growing number of people experiencing chronic homelessness.
There has been some recent scrutiny surrounding the county, including Dallas’ mayor publicly rebuking the county and other cities, saying they needed to do more to help those experiencing homelessness find stable housing and provide mental and behavioral support services.
The county has already allocated more than $173 million for eight housing projects, and Daniel said she is tired of the narrative that the county isn’t doing the work.
“To me, this is putting your money where your mouth is,” Daniel said.
Garcia said the recent influx of federal dollars has given the county the opportunity to more directly make a difference for residents during a difficult economic time.
“You tell me who can buy a house in West Dallas at these prices,” she said. “People want to know that they can have something to leave their families. Home ownership is the first step of wealth.”
Daniel said it’s important for the government to shape the housing market, or else Dallas County will exclude many people integral to its economy.
“From what I can see, if the market were left on its own, it would be developing high-end housing,” she said. “We still need people who are clerks, who work retail, teacher aides, entry level positions, and younger people. Where do they go?”
Under commissioners’ direction, Bazan is working with developers and partners like the city of Dallas and nonprofits to secure property. The county is in the middle of plans for at least 20 affordable housing projects across the county. The projects target different populations; some are slated to help veterans, seniors, single families and those rejoining the workforce.
Most of these projects have income limits, but they will help different income tiers. Some will house people with 30% to 60% of the area median income (AMI), or between $18,700 and $37,380 for a single person and between $26,700 and $53,400 for a family of four, according to last years’ federal income estimates for Dallas County. Other projects are intended to help those with up to 120% AMI, or $74,760 for a single person and $106,800 for a family of four.
Federal COVID-19 relief dollars have made most of these projects possible, Bazan said.
Dallas County is expected to receive more than half a billion dollars from Congress’ American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), 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. From 2020 to 2022, the number of homes in Dallas County dropped by more than 18,000, shrinking the supply. The Dallas Central Appraisal District reports that the value of Dallas County’s 635,195 residential parcels have spiked to unprecedented levels.
The county justified the use of federal COVID-19 dollars to build homes in Dallas County, a briefing that approved the use of ARPA funds for an affordable housing project. The county said lower income homes felt the economic constraints of the pandemic more acutely.
“The combination of a large number of higher-income households who have weathered the pandemic without significant income losses, low interest rates, and housing supply constraints exacerbated by the pandemic, have driven a sharp increase in the sale price of homes,” the November 2022 briefing said. “The result is many low-income renters and homeowners are struggling with lost employment and income and are behind on their housing payments.”
Below is a brief summary of each of the projects with all or partial approval from the commissioners court.
In the coming months, more projects are expected to be approved.
There are 12 more housing projects still under review, as staff solidify partnerships and purchase property. Most of these projects include plans for single-family homes.
Here’s a look at those projects:
Lockridge Workforce Housing Project
This site on 2120 52nd St., Dallas, is already purchased and in operation, with improvements for about 15 units underway. The county spent $6.7 million, offering 67 units in workforce housing, that is transitional housing for men coming out of prison.
Gateway Oak Cliff Project
Construction is in the process for 230 multi-family units at 400 S. Beckley, Dallas. The project offers apartments at market rate and for those making 60% AMI. The county provided the land in this $40 million project.
Oak Lawn Place
This project just closed earlier this month, costing the county $5 million. The 5717 Sadler Circle Dallas site will provide 84 units to low-income seniors with 30% to 60% AMI.
The county has not shared an address for this project, only saying that it will be located in Farmers Branch, where the city and the county are working together. The county has allocated $5 million to the $6.4 million project for 20 single-family homes for those making 80% AMI.
Five Mile Neighborhood
The county approved an 80-unit project by Five Mile Creek, off Lancaster Road for those with 60% to 120% AMI. Dallas County is expected to spend $1.5 million for water and sewer on the $25-million- to $30-million-project to replace substandard units.
Forest Lane Project
A 40-unit site at 8350 Forest Lane, Dallas, will offer affordable, single-family housing, likely for those earning between 60% to 120% AMI. The county has spent $6.5 million on land acquisition.
JJ Lemmon Project
An estimated 700 affordable apartments are expected to be constructed as the county spends about $12 million to buy land. The total cost of the project at 7705 JJ Lemmon Road has yet to be determined.
Lake June Project
The project at 9711 Lake June Road is slated to add 100 units for those earning between 60% to 80% AMI. The county could partner with the city.