Suzanne Felber: Is Waco Leaving Dallas In The Dust When It Comes To Affordable Housing Solutions?

This is what affordable housing looks like in Waco. Will it be coming to Dallas?

Lately it seems like there is nothing but bad news when it comes to affordable housing solutions in Dallas. There is a lot more demand than availability with no viable solutions in sight.

It’s an entirely different story in Waco — groups like Next Step Network and NeighborWorks Waco have come up with some smart affordable solutions to bring new homes to vacant lots in and around Waco as they provide hope and housing to hard-working families at a cost they can afford.

Occupied Oak Cliff home that the City of Dallas stepped in and replaced (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

There is lots of talk right now about our Dallas homeless population and our lack of affordable housing. And let’s be honest – compared to many cities, Dallas is a pretty affordable place to live. The good news if you are a homeowner is that property values are skyrocketing, but the bad news is that, if you are part of the workforce housing group, your chances of being able to own your own home are dwindling every day. What’s being built not only is out of reach for our lower income and homeless residents, even families with two incomes are having a difficult time making ends meet and keeping a non-leaking roof over their heads.

We do a lot of things right in Dallas, but there’s also room for improvement. The City of Dallas has always tried to keep factory-built housing out of our city, but maybe it’s time to take another look at this option and what is available today that never has been before.

Manufactured housing today built by SE Homes of Texas - a division of Clayton Homes. (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

Manufactured housing today built by SE Homes of Texas — a division of Clayton Homes. (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

This is what today’s manufactured housing looks  like. These homes are being built within 50 miles of Dallas and can be manufactured in days instead of months with less waste, theft and better quality because they are being built in a controlled environment. They can be constructed on a slab, have porches, garages, and best of all, truly are affordable housing.

The NextStep Network mission is “Putting sustainable homeownership within reach of everyone, while transforming the manufactured housing industry one home at a time.” When NeighborWorks Waco was looking for solutions for housing, they worked with NextStep to design a duplex that could be constructed locally at the Clayton Homes Waco facility that would be energy efficient, fit in the with neighborhood architecture, and could be built quickly to keep costs down. The first home was being completed this Monday, and was there to see this home for ourselves.

The first duplex built by Clayton Homes Waco II for NeighborWorks in Waco comes off the assembly line (photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

The first duplex built by Clayton Homes Waco II for NeighborWorks in Waco comes off the assembly line (photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

This is a modular home, meaning that it is built to city building codes instead of national HUD code. It has a higher 5/12 roof pitch, Hardie Panel lap siding, and has three bedrooms and two full baths on each side. We were amazed with the quality of materials, including a tumbled stone backsplash and lots of kitchen cabinets and countertops. Waco has over 2,000 empty lots that these homes could be built on and provide needed housing — can you imagine how many Dallas has?

As an Oak Cliff dweller, I’ve seen the city build on vacant lots around Oak Cliff and how inefficient it can be. It’s next to impossible to manage construction on an infill lot when it’s not a million-dollar custom home. Having your subcontractors traveling from site to site just isn’t cost efficient. With a factory-built home, almost all of the construction is done in the plant, consolidating the labor force and materials. This is also one of the things that makes factory-built housing such a green form of building — everything is in one place and there is less driving around town for each task. Here’s an opportunity for Dallas to have locally built, energy efficient, affordable homes that can be built quickly on all of those empty lots.

Factory built housing offers a clean, green, and efficient way to build a home (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

Factory-built housing offers a clean, green, and efficient way to build a home (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

The Clayton Homes Waco plant is a perfect example of what can be accomplished right now. All drywall, flat ceilings, gourmet kitchens with hardwood cabinets, even granite countertops, and the homes are built in days not months. The plant and the homes were spotless and every part of the construction process was being managed. Clayton Homes is actually the largest home builder in the United States — in 2015 they built over 34,000 homes — the largest site builder DR Horton built just over 30,000. Clayton Homes is a Berkshire Hathaway company, and Warren Buffet obviously understands the value in this form of construction.

So what is Dallas waiting for? There are partners like Next Step Network, NeighborWorks, and Clayton Homes that are right in our own backyard that provide a solution we could take advantage of today. As a Lifestylist, this is something I feel very strongly about, and I’m ready to make this happen. Who’s with me?

7 Comment

  • Yes. Yes they are.

  • Candy, you are so right! This would be a great solution to providing affordable housing in Dallas. There is no reason why the city should not allow homes like this to be built on vacant lots or built to replace dilapidated houses that need to be torn down. Gosh, it makes me wish I had the time to take this on to coordinate and make it happen here – as a volunteer project!

  • I love this!!!! As a realtor my heart has just broken many times as I have tried to help first time homeowners find a home and there is nothing of quality in their price range. These are all families or individuals that have been approved for financing and have good jobs but as real estate gets more expensive options are limited. I would love to see this product. I have recently worked with clients in Oak Cliff. There are fabulous opportunities for a product just like this.

    Great article Suzanne.

    • I am thrilled to see such positive comments! Manufactured Housing is the perfect example of an industry that has a tremendous product but has done a lousy job marketing this. Hoping that Candy will let me share more information and examples and we can change the way City Hall looks at this opportunity and bring it to Dallas.

  • Great article


  • Agree with everyone else that there is absolutely no reason that these types of homes shouldn’t be allowed in any DFW city. They are apparently completely legal on the New Jersey coast, as I’ve seen shows about their build process before (might be another company rather than the Texas one) and they were being placed in fairly ritzy areas and looked fine.

  • Exceptional Article, thank you for this insight that likely would have gone unnoticed without your professional perspective, Suzanne. Suzanne is a tireless advocate for affordable housing but seldom plugs herself or her talents to let me just say that the interior shots you see above are her canvas. Unmatched at interior design and has done several offices and homes for our organization. Thank you, Suzanne.