OAK CLIFF (CBS 11 NEWS) - Tieria Pettey is already dreaming the American dream -- in Technicolor. "My room is going to be zebra print, or pink and purple zebra print, " the 9-year-old said with a gleeful grin. "Or I may have just big hearts on one wall and little hearts on the other wall!"
Pettey, her Mom and two siblings will soon move into a new four-bedroom home near Lancaster Road and Loop 12 in South Oak Cliff. The brick home still smells of fresh paint. It's part of a project that Dallas city leaders hope will also bring a fresh outlook to neighborhoods battling the telltale signs of urban decay.
Those conditions are detrimental to everyone. Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway said, "It invites criminals and crime and crack and drugs and prostitution. And who wants to live around that? So, the first thing you have to do is clean it up."
Whether it's boarded up buildings, or littered abandoned lots—urban decay is a costly problem. To combat the problem, Dallas city leaders created the 'Urban Land Bank.' The program offers vacant lots and tax-seized properties at bargain basement prices to non-profit organizations and developers who then turn the neighborhood eyesores into assets.
"I'm just happy to be out of that 2-bedroom apartment," said Tieria's 16-year-old sister, Shanterria. "I'm not going to be worried about the air messing up or hearing police cars every other hour. It's just going to be peace and quiet when I come home… [I'm] able to study, do homework."
The family's new home is one of 50 that developer RPL Properties is building in the area. RPL owner Paul Lewis says the career was born because of his childhood dream and first new home.
"I never forgot the feeling that it gave me, " he said. "I was so excited. I decided, that day, when I grew up, that's what I wanted to do."
Two of the three new homes showcased Tuesday have already been sold.
RPL has been building in Dallas' Oak Cliff community since the mid-1970s. Lewis says he has made a home there and wants to see the community thrive by replacing blighted properties with homeowners who infuse a sense of pride.
The new RPL homes have price points ranging from $114,000 to $129,000. Several homebuyer assistance programs are also helping potential homeowners with up to $35,000 in down payment assistance—depending on income, family size and location of the home.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
PHOTOS: Your Pet Pictures
for more features.