The DJ Steele Construction office feels like a family member’s home. The exterior of the South Minneapolis business blends into the other neighborhood homes. As I walked in I was greeted by the warmth of two smiling faces, both asking, “Are you here for Don Jr. or Don Sr.?” Don senior was taking a lunch break catching up on a Jamaican soap opera, reminiscing about the country his family immigrated from in 1981.
Don Sr. standing proudly in the office of DJ Steele Construction
“My father was a contractor. I worked for his company and learned carpentry skills. Then I went on to trade school in Jamaica,” Don Sr. shared. Ten years after coming to America he started DJ Steele Construction, and has built a company with his wife and sons that has lasted through tough times.
Don said he could have worked for bigger construction companies, but he wanted to start something of his own, with his family. But between lack of access to capital and a constantly changing economy the road to success hasn’t been easy. Like many families of color, securing financial resources, whether for a business or a home, can be met with barriers. “We were limited in the loans we could access. We could only get $10,000 when we needed $50,000, so we had to use our own cash to pay for projects. All we needed was a fair chance,” Joyce Steel said about building the company early on.
Joyce Steele showing Don who’s boss
During the Great Recession DJ Steele Construction, like many businesses, faced the decision to cross their fingers and keep grinding or to shut down. Nobody was building and cash stopped flowing, but PRG found opportunity where there was blight. “I give credit to our business staying alive during the recession to PRG. It was scary. We made just enough to pay bills, “said Don.
PRG is driven to narrow the homeownership gap and address racial disparities by working at the invitation of neighborhoods to rehabilitate vacant houses into beautiful homes to live in, and partnering with minority owned businesses for construction contracts. “PRG made a big difference on the North Side since back in the 90’s when nobody was doing anything. I was right there with PRG doing neighborhood revitalization,” Don shared about his long-lasting relationship with PRG.
For too long our communities have faced racial disparities that divide and displace individuals, families and neighborhoods. There is no silver bullet solution to these problems, but we can take small steps to chip away at these issues and support each other along the way. PRG is proud to share strong outcomes in our collaborative equity work in 2017 including:
- Acquired 5 lender- or city-owned, single-family homes for renovation and resale to low-and moderate-income households, bringing our 8-year total to 83.
- Acquired 4 city-owned vacant lots for new construction, bringing our total Green Homes North and infill partnership with Phillips in south to 17 new homes.
- 77% of single-family construction contracts awarded in 2017 went to minority-owned business and 22% went to women-owned businesses. Over the past 8 years, PRG has awarded over $12 million in single family construction contracts with 98% going to small, minority or women owned businesses.
- Sold 11 homes, all but one purchased by households of color, and bringing the 8-year total to 92. Of these, 82% of buyers had incomes under 80 % AMI.
- Provided 88 households with high quality rental housing affordable at 50% AMI.
Don Jr., Joyce, and Don Sr.
Don said he’s always believed strongly in housing as an essential human right, and in the need for quality, affordable housing. “I take pride in owning a home and building homes for others. A home guarantees assets and a future for your kids. In Jamaica we say your home is your castle.”
Here’s to DJ Steele Construction giving an opportunity for all families to have their own castle.