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By Lynn Pearcey

Visionaries Scottie Smith and Kevin Hemphill officially broke ground on the Jeffries-Meyers affordable housing community during a ceremony held on June 20th. The South Dallas development consists of 17 lots with homes priced from the low 200s to the mid-300s. Local dignitaries, leaders, and members of the community all showed up for what can best be described as a momentous occasion.   

Dallas is the 9th largest city in the nation and is considered by many to be one of the most progressive in the region. All too often, when it comes to the city’s southern sector, urban blithe and despair are the terms most commonly used. But whereas others saw an area bereft with hopelessness, Smith and Hemphill saw opportunities. “We saw this portion of the city as the place where we would draw our proverbial line in the sand and make a stand against the cycle of poverty that has for far too long held Black and Brown families in a fiscal stranglehold,” said Scottie Smith, the co-founder, and COO of Jeffries-Meyers.

Jefferies Meyers Groundbreaking | Photo Credit: Rayford Johnson

Homeownership is the cornerstone of a wealth building effort, but all too often, Black people are left out of the mix. “For Blacks, an astounding 97% of our net worth is directly tied to our home … but only 44% of Blacks nationwide actually own a home. This number alone shines a light on the financial disparity among races that exists in our nation. Statistics like those cement our core belief that developments like ours aren’t investment luxuries, they’re financial necessities,” said co-founder and CEO Kevin Hemphill. 

Generational wealth is a concept that has been slow to take hold in Black communities. While other races recognize the power of home equity, hold onto and pass property from one generation to the next, Blacks are quick to sell. When the home sells, the structure and, more importantly, its equity goes with it. Smith quickly pointed out that built-in equity will be one of the key selling points to buyers. “On day one, this community will have a cumulative equity value of 5.7 million dollars. With that figure, the seeds for generational wealth are present and offer residents incredible financial mobility, both now and into the future.”

According to Hemphill, a development like Jeffries-Meyers could’ve been planted anywhere, but South Dallas was chosen for a reason. “No matter what you’ve heard or think of it, you can’t run from the fact that the story of South Dallas is woven into the fabric of the city. Our goal is to open a new chapter that’s laced with and pays homage to the history and relevance of this community.”

Black communities are often distrusting when it comes to residential projects as many have over the course of time turned into nothing more than glorified profit grabs that have historically left them on the outside looking in. When asked about the reception, Smith was reflective and extremely optimistic. “Was there skepticism? Sure, there was, but that’s part of the Black experience in America. But the number of skeptics paled in comparison to the overwhelming number of those who applauded our efforts. Their reaction has been a large part of the fuel to our fire and told us the community was ready to receive our message.”

The immediate impact of the Jeffries-Meyers Project will be affordable housing, but the true benefit is more than a house; it’s the lesson of financial literacy it represents. “We can’t go back and change the past, but we can affect the present and, more importantly, the future. When the children of the families who purchase a home here see how it resonates, a mindset shift will occur,” said Smith.

People gathered at the site of Jefferies Meyers Groundbreaking | Photo Credit: Rayford Johnson

Jeffries-Meyers is a labor of love that began five years ago, driven by two men who often wondered if the fight they tirelessly fought would ever lead them to this point. “There were many nights we sat in my driveway or his, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel. What we see here today made it all worthwhile,” commented Smith.

The fact that the groundbreaking took place just one day after Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the emancipation of African Americans, is something that wasn’t lost on either man. While Smith and Hemphill acknowledge that Black people have come a long way since gaining their freedom, both agree that there’s so much more road that needs to be traveled, especially regarding homeownership and wealth generation.

This is just the start as both Smith and Hemphill agreed that there are other communities of color throughout the DFW metroplex that would benefit from the model they’ve constructed. “We’ve got a very long-term vision, but in order to layer this into other parts of the area, we’ve got to be successful here,” mentioned Hemphill. 

The song “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” was popularized by the children’s miniseries “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” which enjoyed a nearly four decades-long television stay. Households of all races sang along, but the song’s promise was fleeting in communities of color. But thanks to men like Scottie Smith and Kevin Hemphill, beauty, in the forms of homeownership and wealth building, has finally arrived in this South Dallas neighborhood.