After nearly a year of fighting with the city over the fate of hundreds of tenants in West Dallas, Khraish Khraish has had a stunning change of heart. Instead of evicting the residents of his small, low rent houses, he will now sell to them. The plan is scheduled to be formally announced Monday morning.
By Sunday evening, he had already signed contracts with more than a dozen former tenants to sell them the homes where they’ve been living for an average of eleven years.
“The idea is to make everybody who is still with me, and is in good standing, a homeowner,” Khraish told me.
He says 130 residents have remained current on their rent and will be offered a chance to buy their homes for a neighborhood-wide price of $65,000 per structure. He values the land the houses stand on as worth $100,000 per lot because of a wave of gentrification rolling down Singleton Boulevard from the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge. Each structure is probably worth much less than the land, but many tenants haven’t been able to find low cost rental properties in the area.
Khraish will provide 20 year mortgages at a fixed 4.75% interest rate. The new homeowners will pay about $425 per month, with an additional $150 in property tax, making their total monthly payment about $572, not too much more than what most are paying in rent alone now, he says. If a new homeowner decides to sell the home in less than ten years, Khraish will have the right of first refusal to buy it back. He says this right of first refusal is a standard proviso in Habitat for Humanity house contracts.
Last fall, Khraish announced he’d be evicting his tenants after the city strengthened Chapter 27 of the housing code, and he was faced with fines of up to $1,500 a day per structure.
He’d been adamantly opposed to selling the properties, saying the city of Dallas was conspiring with developers to rob him of his land. He credits Omar Narvaez, who’s running for the District 6 city council seat with changing his mind.
He says Narvaez came to him on several occasions. “He said ‘I believe in this community,’” Khraish recalls. “And then he told me he believed in me. And he knew I would do what was right for the community and these families.”
At the same time, Khraish as a landlord was seeing his tenants at least once a month. “So many of them would see me when they would come in to pay their rent. Or just come in, come into visit and say things like we believe in you, We trust you. And we know you will do the right thing in the end.”
At a meeting Saturday, Khraish announced his decision to sell the residents their homes. It was emotional. “I saw the joy and relief that people were exhibiting, I knew I had made the right decision.”
“I am thankful to Mr. Khraish for working with me to find a solution for these residents,” Narvaez told me. “We have more work to do to ensure that Chapter 27 is never used again to displace people from their homes.”
Although most of the properties do not meet city code, city ordinances are not as strict on homeowners as they are on landlords, meaning that new homeowners could expect some leniency in bringing their properties up to standards.
Ronnie Mestas, President of the Los Altos Neighborhood Association looks forward to changing his group into a homeowners association. He says, however, that many tenants are undocumented and may have difficulty obtaining loans. He expects everyone who can to participate.
Both the city and a group of Khraish’s tenants have legal action pending against him in the 95th District court. A hearing in those cases is scheduled for this week.