At Monday’s Mill City 50 groundbreaking, wood planks outline the new homes coming to Spring and Sutton, marking the beginning of the latest– and largest– affordable housing project in South Dallas.
“We are here because of a generation of life changing work and we get to witness it,” community leader Donald Parish Jr. said as he led the opening prayer.
The project is led by Good Urban Development (GUD), a partnership between real estate developer Matthews Southwest and community nonprofit Urban Specialists. When complete, the development will provide 50 two-story single-family homes that can be purchased by individuals and families who fall into certain income brackets. For example, a family of four earning between $53,400 and $106,000 annually would be eligible to buy one of the homes.
Home prices will range from $209,000 to $271,000. The total development cost will be $12 million, which includes a $3 million subsidy from the City of Dallas and $2.5 million subsidy from Dallas County via the American Rescue Plan Act, according to Matthews Southwest.
Keeondra Carter hopes to move into one of these 50 homes at the end of 2024.
“I will be starting a family,” Carter says. “My fiancé and I will be moving over here and, most likely, 99 percent, this will be where we will start our family. It will be great to be able to build our family here in East Dallas.”
Mill City is a historically Black neighborhood where more than a third of the lots are vacant. Good Urban Development is one of at least three affordable housing projects in the works among the 1,530 parcels of land in Mill City. Innercity Community Development Corporation is constructing eight townhomes along Spring at Troy, and up the street at Troy and Collins, Mill City neighborhood leaders are planning an affordable housing project.
Jack Matthews of Matthews Southwest first met with the late Bishop Omar Jahwar seven years ago to forge a plan for affordable housing development that would welcome new residents while protecting current residents from gentrification. The resulting firm, Good Urban Development, purchased the 50 lots in Mill City from Habitat for Humanity in 2018.
“We had a track record of building people; he had a record of building buildings,” Lucky says of Matthews. “We didn’t say, ‘Let’s build some mega mansions.’ We said, ‘Let’s build some homes so people in this community can stay in this community.’
Lucky grew up near the Mill City 50 Project at Sutton and Spring. He remembers houses on the land until he was 8 or 9 years old, then they were torn down and never rebuilt.
“This kind of became an eyesore to some because people would congregate here and hang here, park their cars, illegally dump,” Lucky says. “That’s what it was the last, probably, 20 years.”
“My biggest desire and wish is for this neighborhood to once again thrive with family, community,” Lucky says, “and where my son can walk out the door, cross the street to the neighbor’s house and they would have the same regard and concern for their kids as I have for theirs.”
According to Lucky, more than 50 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are renters.
“Putting real people in these homes who are homeowners creates wealth, creates community, and gives people a sense of belonging,” Lucky says.
The homes will range in size from 1,400 to 2,000 square feet and have three bedrooms, a one-car garage, and fenced backyards. As part of the hope to revitalize this area of South Dallas, the project also will include a grocery store, coffee shop, workspaces and a ghost kitchen.
This investment into a historically Black and redlined neighborhood is being spearheaded by three women of color— Good Urban Development president Shannon Brown-Key, builder Stacie Stewart, and architect Jeannette Brown-Sneed.
“I’m so lucky to be working with these women who have proven themselves time and time again in this industry, and to be standing with them as three women of color in a male-dominated field is such a blessing,” Brown-Key says.
The first eight Mill City 50 homes are scheduled to be on the market in mid-February 2024, according to a press release.
“Years ago, when you drove over here, you saw homeless people, drug affiliations, and things of that nature, but seeing the change, beauty, love and us uniting as a community,” Carter says, “it brings the love in and makes me want to see the change.”