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Hey, Don Huffines, why do new homes in DFW cost so dang much?

“Far and away the number one issue driving the price of housing up is government.”
Credit: Jake Dean
Don Huffines, co-owner of Huffines Communities

DALLAS — With affordability being the buzz word in North Texas housing circles these days, the Dallas Business Journal sat down with Don Huffines, co-owner of Huffines Communities, to ask him what’s driving the prices up.

Huffines Communities is one of the largest land development companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The company’s focus over the last two decades has increasingly shifted to large, master-planned communities with 1,500 to 5,000 houses and a focus on first-time and first move-up buyers.

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In the Q&A that follows, Huffines discusses affordability, the company’s history, and a wide range of hot-button topics:

How much do you focus on affordability?

Our focus from day one has been delivering a great product in our communities to the first-time buyer.

How do you go about that?

We work very closely with our builder lineup. As the developer of the masterplanned community, we control the restrictions, the homeowner’s association, and we work closely with our builder lineup for them to deliver a nice home at an affordable price. That’s the square footage of the home, the architectural details, things like that. Our communities are very successful. We sell a lot of houses in them. I would say that’s because of not only the lifestyle you live in a Huffines Community, but the quality you get at the price.

What’s driving the prices of houses up?

Government. Far and away the number one issue driving the price of housing up is government. It’s everything from creating barriers to entry for the developers on the land-use side to rules, regulations, impact fees, everything from tree fees, park fees, sewer and water fees, you name it. It all goes in to the price of a home, to the end user. It’s always passed on to the consumer.

What other factors?

Second would be interest rates and third would be consumer demand and expectations.

It’s interesting that you’re not mentioning a labor shortage. Why?

I put labor in with the first category under government policies. Government is comprehensive. We do have a labor shortage of 30,000 people, according to the Dallas Builders Association. That can be resolved through proper immigration reform and temporary work visas for trades that are in demand. We’ve got a large segment of society that are illegal and being employed. That means they’re underemployed and underpaid, and it’s just a big issue. Our immigration issues are a big problem in our states. I think you will see labor inflation, wages increasing, which is good and bad. It’s certainly good for the worker, but it makes the house less affordable.

For an expanded version of this story with more insights from Don Huffines, click here.

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