In a neighborhood news conference, West Dallas landlord Kraish Kraish formalized his plan to sell at least 120 homes that do not meet city code to the tenants who are living in them. As a platform, he chose the front porch of a home that he’s selling to Merced Correa. At least ten families have signed contracts to purchase their houses, Khraish said.
Raul and Edna Mancilla plan to buy the home they’re living in on Rutz Street. Khraish, a principal of HMK Ltd, which owns the home, is offering to sell it and similar houses to tenants for $62,500 each. He will provide financing on a 20 year loan at 4.75% interest. The monthly cost for a homeowner is $575, with no down payment. If a homeowner decides to sell their residence early, Khraish reserves a right of first refusal to buy the house.
Naomi Pena is happy about the price, but unhappy that her mom will have to leave the house she’s been living in for forty-three years and move into another property nearby also owned by HMK. Khraish is dividing his houses into two groups. One that he’s calling a ‘redevelopment zone,’ in which houses will be torn down for new construction in the rapidly gentrifying area, and another he’s defining as his ‘non-redevelopment zone.’ Seventy-five families can purchase homes in the non-redevelopment zone where they are already living if they desire. Another forty-five families in the redevelopment zone will be offered vacant houses in the non-redevelopment area.
Thelma Jean Williams watched the crowd gather for the news conference from her house across the street. She said she’d like to buy, too. Her house, 1518 Dennison, is listed on Dallas County tax rolls as $10,800. Its value is likely much higher than that because gentrification from development on nearby Singleton Blvd. is boosting values all over the neighborhood. Property values in the area are “all over the place,” according to Khraish Khraish. He annually protests the valuations of his 260 properties, many of which are now vacant lots cleared in the last several months. He promises to advise the tenants who become homeowners on how to fight for low property taxes.
Thelma Jean Williams’ residence is also likely in violation of city code. Khraish Khraish tells me none of his properties meet the stricter city codes put into effect by Chapter 27 last fall. It was that ordinance that put him on a collision course with city hall, when it became clear that his small, decades old properties were out of city compliance and he would be faced with crippling fines. He says he hopes the city will be more lenient in enforcing codes on the new owners than they were on him, and that it would help them obtain funds for repairs.
“I cannot take any credit for this development,” said Khraish Khraish, who’s fought the idea of selling the properties for the last eight months. He was flanked by Omar Narvaez, Ronnie Mestas and Hilda Duarte. Narvaez is in a runoff for the District 6 city council seat. Ronnie Mestas, President of the Los Altos Neighborhood Association, rents a house a few doors away that does not belong to HMK. Hilda Duarte is President of LULAC Council 4782. Khraish said the trio “moved and transformed” his thinking about the neighborhood in the last several weeks. “Their concern gave me a change of heart,” he said.
Narvaez had tears in his eyes at one point. “We were able, without the city’s help, to stabilize this neighborhood. And now one hundred thirty families will be homeowners.”
Mestas told me that he, Navarez and Duarte had travelled to Austin to see how a neighborhood there had dealt with gentrification and had returned to tell Khraish of a possible solution.
Hilda Duarte spoke of the gossip targeted toward her within the hispanic community for talking to Khraish. “They’ve accused me of taking money from him, being his lover, or that he’s my son,” she said. None are true, she added. “Of the three, I’d prefer that he be my son, because he’s doing the right thing.”
She was extremely critical of city hall. “Those people who are elected officials have turned their back on this community in the name of economic development,” she said. “But you can have economic development without gentrification.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings responded in a statement. “I am encouraged that Mr. Khraish has decided to do what we asked him to consider nearly two years ago: sell some of his homes to his tenants. We have long felt that increasing homeownership will help lift up our neighborhoods in part by providing a sense of pride among our residents. It’s a key strategy to protect against gentrification in areas like West Dallas.”
HMK has been the target of two legal actions since last year, one an emerging class action suit from his tenants, the other, a code violation action from the city. Those actions were scheduled to go to court this week. Khraish has been asking for more time to resolve the issue. Now Judge Ken Molberg has granted an extension until October 2nd.