For Dallas’ CitySquare, The Answer to Homelessness Is Homes

Tiny Homes Unlocking at Hickory Groves

Mayor Rawlings joined with city leaders and the people who made the dream of homes for some of Dallas’ chronically homeless a reality. Photos: Lisa Stewart Photography

At today’s unlocking of the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, Mayor Mike Rawlings stated that “The answer to homelessness is homes.” It’s such a simple-sounding statement that, in truth, could not be more complex.

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing are being billed as “the first of its kind housing community,” and will provide 50 tiny homes designed to shelter some of Dallas’ most chronically homeless. A lofty goal, but what are its chances of succeeding? This Lifestylist® took a close look at this community and had some thoughts of her own.

Exterior of tiny home at The Cottages at Hickory Crossing

Exterior of one of the 50 new tiny homes at The Cottages at Hickory Crossing 

Any of us could become homeless. A staggering thought, but if you spend time with the growing homeless population in Dallas, you’ll learn some things that will surprise you. Besides the mentally ill, addicts, and people who just don’t want to “play by the rules,” there are people living on the streets of Dallas that never in a million years thought that they would end up there. Survivors of abuse, people who lost everything when they had medical emergencies, and people who had great lives and great jobs until something happened and all of that went away. Seniors who can’t afford to pay the crazy rents in our booming city, but don’t know how to negotiate all of the ins and outs to apply for public housing.

After becoming involved with Shared Housing, how I look at our homeless population changed from these people have nothing in common with me to this could be me.

Dallas has so many wonderful nonprofits trying to take care of these people, but the chronically homeless are the ones that seem to fall through the cracks more than others. One of the things I enjoy the most about writing for is learning about groups and organizations that are doing great things, and CitySquare is one of them. They have lofty goals — to fight the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy, and friendship, and to change the trajectory of people’s lives.

CitySquare took the lead to raise millions of dollars to make the dream of the Cottages at Hickory Crossing a reality, and today after thinking, dreaming, planning, and praying, 50 of Dallas’ chronically homeless will finally have a home of their own.

Cottages Grand Unlocking SSF 89

Interior of one of the tiny homes at Hickory Crossing 

This $6.8 million project is designed to be Texas’ premier example of the “Housing First” philosophy, and not only will the residents have their own home, but they will also have on-site access to mental and medical healthcare and social services. If you break that cost down by the 50 homes that are part of the Cottages at Hickory Crossing, that comes out to $136,000 per 400-square-foot residence. When I inquired about what the build cost for each home was, I was given a quote of $63,000, which comes out to over $157 per square foot. Zillow is quoting the median list price per square foot in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro to be $120 per square foot. We love everything about the Cottages at Hickory Crossing except for the building costs — is there a better solution?

Tiny homes under construction at The Cottages at Hickory Crossing Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography

Tiny homes under construction at The Cottages at Hickory Crossing Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography

The idea of The Cottages at Hickory Crossing came about over 10 years ago, and they had hoped to have residents moving in last October. Now it’s looking like the first residents will get their own keys in a few weeks, or maybe in October. To put this in perspective, Clayton — a company that is one of the largest home builders in the US that builds predominantly factory built homes — visited Dallas a year ago to attend a tiny house show. Keith Holdbrooks, President of the Clayton home building group liked what he saw, but thought by using factory-built housing construction they could even do a better job. Four months ago they contacted one of the top architects in the US, and last month had a tiny home that you’ll learn more about (and drool over) next week on, so stay tuned. It’s not a home that would fit in at Hickory Crossing, but it gives you an idea of how quickly manufactured housing companies can make a dream become a reality.

I checked in with Joe Stegmayer, CEO of Cavco Industries and past president of the Manufactured Housing Institute, to get his feedback as well. Palm Harbor Homes is a division of Cavco and their main office is in Dallas. I asked if they could build a comparable home and he thought they could, probably for about 40 percent less, more quickly, and in a more energy efficient way. If the answer to homelessness is homes, why wouldn’t we want to explore using this form of construction in Dallas?

Our homeless population in Dallas continues to be something that none of us can overlook, and we need to look at ways that we haven’t explored before to get people off the streets. The Cottages at Hickory Crossing is a great start, but where can we go from here?

5 Comment

  • I completely agree with a housing first approach coupled with the appropriate services. It’s proven to work and it’s cost effective by greatly reducing city costs supporting the homeless.
    On pricing, a fair comparison on build costs would be the average cost for new housing, not the average selling price for all homes. Older homes were built when costs were less and aren’t reflective of construction costs for new builds. But if the manufactured housing industry can help with a quality product, I’m all for it!

  • mm

    Jon, be sure and read my article next week on the new Clayton Designer Series Tiny Homes – it will change your mind about what is possible with factory built housing and the potential cost savings.

  • mm

    This is very exciting Suzanne. My only worry is are these homes going to hold up? Tiny houses are a cool idea but will they easily be damaged in a hail storm or blown away?

  • mm

    Karen I can’t speak for the construction on these except for the fact that they were built to the standard residential code and they also thought they will qualify to be LEED platinum certified. I would think that the city would be sure that they are built to withstand the weather we have around here.

  • mm

    You are not kidding, your life can change in a split second. The fastest growing segment of homeless is single women with children, who need daycare so their moms can work to take care of the family. This is amazing. There are only 112 homes in Dallas south of I-30 with 2 bedrooms, 1000 square feet, that would qualify as affordable: 0 to $150,000. Great post!