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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – If Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings were to throw out the South Dallas welcome mat—it would be middle class homeowners that he would want to walk across it. And that takes homes. Nice. New. And if the mayor has his way—they’re on the way.
As part of the GrowSouth economic development initiative, the Mayor has convinced a group of local builders to commit to building 1500 new homes during his second term.

“When I moved here… wow… we only had two houses on the end,” says an astonished Sally Aguilar. Aguilar has seen her community near 175 and Beltline go from empty lots, to lots of new neighbors. “I’m finally in a community where you can count on your neighborhood. Need a cup a sugar? Can you watch the dog for me? Need to drop my mail off?” Aguilar also insists that her southern sector neighborhood is safe, affordable and accessible. “It’s 10 minutes away, it’s easy access, no traffic, no drama. I wouldn’t move.”

“I think it’s a good place to settle down and raise a family,” adds Harvey Jackson, who described himself as a “working man” hurrying off to do just that. Still, he took just a moment to add that southern Dallas is not what most expect. “I think it’s affordable and I think you’ll feel comfortable if you come here.”

The city is not subsidizing the new construction. The signs of progress seen as new developments spring up, come compliments of plain old capitalism.

“This is not a charitable donation,” says Ted Wilson, Principal, Residential Strategies, Inc. “They’re [builders] coming in and saying Southern Dallas is a wonderful place to go do business today.”

Because they can make money? “Absolutely.”

Wilson has built a career keeping tabs on the residential housing market in Dallas. So he was the logical choice when the mayor needed a bridge between the city’s ambitious housing goals in southern Dallas and builders who would need to deliver them. Wilson heads up the GrowSouth residential housing steering committee. The city agreed to trim red tape and make the process easier. And more than a dozen builders got on board. Wilson says strong job growth, rising wages, and low mortgage rates have made home ownership a possibility for more middle class families. Still, the southern sector housing stock (ranging from near in sites like Trinity Groves and South Lamar to the city’s southern borders) is expected to fetch prices ranging from $200k-$500k. Again, it’s simple economics.

“For example, over the last five years, direct construction costs to build a new house have climbed between 30 and 35 precent,” says Wilson, citing a labor shortage in the area. The upside to rising prices is that home values have also risen in southern Dallas neighborhoods as well.

Still, for new homeowner Felicia Garcia, her neighborhood’s biggest plus is simple: “that I have my own house!” she exclaims with a laugh.

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