This Dallas builder is dedicated to providing homes at affordable prices

Written by Desmond

January 3, 2022

James Armstrong III poked around his latest gem of a gray brick house, taking in the smell of fresh lumber, wondering about the white paint choices and suddenly greeting people who were hoping the house on Hamilton Avenue was for sale.

It wasn’t.

In fact, all eight houses he’s built were snapped up this year in this Mill City neighborhood just south of Fair Park. As the head of a community development corporation called Builders of Hope, Armstrong is focused on South Dallas and West Dallas. Both have neighborhoods full of working class residents with views of the glass and glitz of downtown Dallas skyscrapers.

Across the nation, low-income to middle-income people grapple with finding affordable housing, or keeping the home they own as gentrification drives up property values resulting in higher property taxes. In Dallas, Armstrong brings unusual perspectives to that struggle: He’s been a banker to high-net worth individuals, a Black child who lived in public housing with his single mother in a segregated neighborhood, and now he’s the director of a housing nonprofit.

The waiting list of pre-qualified buyers for Builders of Hope is some 200-strong. Houses in Mill City were priced at $165,000 to $185,000. Buyers must make less than the median household income in Dallas.

“There are literally no other homes under $200,000 in the market,” said Armstrong, CEO and president of Builders of Hope.

Armstrong likes to say that his agency builds neighborhoods, not just homes. That’s why he does things like work with neighborhood associations to provide advice on working with police for improved community safety, provide small grants to neighborhood schools to boost student learning and provide home repair support.

“It’s all part of how to develop a community and not just build homes,” Armstrong said.

“It’s all a way to buffer against gentrification.”

Not that Armstrong is against new development. He said it just needs to be community-centered with input from those who live in neighborhoods.

“Many times, people invested in these communities when it was not desirable,” he said of the homeowners. “Self-determination is needed and it is cultivated by Builders of Hope.”

In the red-hot Dallas real estate market, Builders of Hope was able to get the land on Hamilton Street in Mill City from the city of Dallas land bank, where property is designated for low-income housing.

Cyndy Lutz, a Dallas-based housing expert, praised Armstrong’s approach of working with communities, and bolstering public safety through neighborhood building.

“The neighborhood has to be adequately represented in meetings or you are just going to fail,” said Lutz, a former executive at the housing developer Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.

“You need to be as concerned about the old lady in her aging house as you are about the young couple in their new home.”

Alendra Lyons, the head of the decade-old Mill City Community Association, said she’s glad to have a partner like Builders of Hope. Gentrification and what it could do to property taxes worries her. Two new homes at about 2500 square feet have sprung up in the neighborhood with price tags topping $400,000.

“We need to make sure that people can stay here and not move,” said Lyons, a substitute teacher who lives in a 1,000-square foot house. “They want to be in the inner city and still afford it.”

Armstrong deserves credit for attending neighborhood association meetings, and paying attention to details, Lyons said. “He actually listens to us. That is important. That is partnership.”

Builders of Hope is also working in West Dallas, where rapid gentrification is changing the landscape along the area’s main artery of Singleton Boulevard and within the surrounding neighborhoods. Property taxes have doubled there from 2010 through 2019, according to a Dallas Morning News estimate of mortgage records data from the Census Bureau. The last two years have seen further increases. Armstrong is active in the group’s umbrella organization of neighborhood associations called West Dallas 1.

In his toolbox:

Armstrong lives in West Dallas, just as his parents and his grandparents did. He said housing stability was essential to his family’s growth but his own childhood was rocky. As a five-year-old, he lived for a time with his young divorced mother and sister in publicly subsidized housing in the Ledbetter neighborhood, where home ownership is strong.

He saw other neighborhood children eating dinner as a family. Tearfully, he’d ask his mother why his family couldn’t do the same.

A week later, a used dining table was added to the family apartment. “We were poor, very poor, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t have similar lived experiences,” said Armstrong, now 35 years old.

Within a few years, the family moved to Mesquite as his mother stabilized their finances through multiple jobs. She became a homeowner, too.

“I learned early on that housing really is the critical foundation for a thriving life,” he said. “That’s why it really should be a human right. Everyone should have a right to have a place to live.”

James attended Baylor University and earned a degree in finance. After a stint in banking, Armstrong took the executive director post four years ago at Builders of Hope, which started in 1998.

He’s seen the Dallas real estate market really catch on fire. Rather than working to reinvigorate neighborhoods as he is in Mill City, Armstrong is trying to stabilize West Dallas neighborhoods.

“West Dallas is a representation of what’s going on in other neighborhoods in Dallas – but on steroids,” Armstrong said.

Many homes are being built and offered for $400,000 to $600,000 for about 2,000 square feet. Other new homes are sized at 3,000 square feet. Both the size and the price are out of the range for the working-class and the middle-class homebuyer.

In West Dallas, Builders of Hope has plans for nearly two dozen new houses to sell and a new rental apartment complex of about three dozen units.

“We are producing housing that is significantly below the market to cool off the market. Currently, our homes are the only homes below $200,000 in the entire city of Dallas.”

But Armstrong has a fear that those developments could be the last for West Dallas. A smart plan is needed now to stabilize neighborhoods with proper housing at the scale of those with moderate incomes, Armstrong said.

Otherwise, “Dallas will become a San Francisco where it is a developers’ paradise.”

“The city of Dallas needs a change of heart,” Armstrong said.

“We have to really ask ourselves, are we going to be a thriving city where big business thrives and the people of the city are pushed out? Or are we going to be a true thriving city that allows everyone to have economic mobility no matter what part of the city you’re from.”

Easy winter home cleaning tasks you need to tackle

Easy winter home cleaning tasks you need to tackle

Spring cleaning may get all the attention, but it’s winter cleaning you need to pay attention to.From checking the fireplace to cleaning windows, these tasks can often slip by throughout the year but are important in keeping a home free from dirt...

$1.4 Million Homes in California

$1.4 Million Homes in California

24 PhotosView Slide Show ›This house was designed by John Harvey Carter, an architect who designed more than 400 private and public buildings in the Sacramento area and served as a member of the city’s planning commission. It has been owned by the...

Some articles from around the MLHA Nation you might like...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Getting More Local

Setting Up Shop In Your Area Soon!

Coming Soon!

My Local Home Value

MARKETPLACE

Interactive and Intuitive Digital Magazine focused on the housing markets and home values of Your Area.

Sample is of 

My Seattle
Home Value
Marketplace

Coming Soon!

Vounce HOME VALUE

MARKETPLACE

Interactive and Intuitive Digital Magazine focused on the housing markets and home values of Your Area.

Sample is of 

My Seattle
Home Value
Marketplace

Coming Soon!

My Local Home Value

MARKETPLACE

Interactive and Intuitive Digital Magazine focused on the housing markets and home values of the area you live.

Sample is of

My Seattle
Home Value
Marketplace

Appraiser Interview Guide

We have a combined 70+ years of appraisal experience. It makes us happy to share this with you. Let's jump right in then!

1. The first thing is a lot like many things you might get ready to do is to get your ducks in a row, and have a game plan for setting up your appraisal. And of course  you can't know everything about everything so the right appraiser will provide those answers, and you will get the best results.

2. Have your property information readily available when talking with the appraiser...

Get the complete Appraiser Interview Guide delivered directly to your email box in a readable and downloadable format, there's no cost.

Locations By State

We have all Current Certified Residential and Licenced Appraisers in the country. You can simply get started anytime.
We have also setup in many cities and metro areas as well as a centalized base for many rural locations. We will setup more locations each week.

Washington  |  Oregon  |  California  |  Texas  |  New York  |  Illinois  |  Florida  |  Pennsylvania  |  Washington DC

Locations By State

We have all Current Certified Residential and Licenced Appraisers in the country. You can simply get started anytime.
We have also setup in many cities and metro areas as well as a centalized base for many rural locations. We will setup more locations each week.

Washington  |  Oregon  |  California  |  Texas  |  New York  |  Illinois  |  Florida  |  Pennsylvania  |  Washington DC

Home Office

Portland, OR

Phone

503 781-0448

Contact Us

Copyright ©2021 • My Local Home Appraiser

Copyright ©2021 • My Local Home Appraiser

Phone: (503) 349-3765  Home Office: Portland, OR  |  Email: contact@mylocalhomeappraiser.com

  Email: contact@mylocalhomeappraiser.com