Groups work to help with ownership, increase supply
MOORESVILLE – Working with families to help them recover from financial obstacles like debt and low credit scores is how Kathy Brantley spends the better part of her day.
Brantley, who serves as the executive director for Community Foundations, Inc. notes the families that find themselves using the nonprofit’s services are anything but monolithic. For those working in affordable housing counseling, financial literacy and education are some of the top factors to gaining financial independence – but Mooresville's lack of affordable housing options is also a setback.
Fostering a need
Starting in 1997 with support from concerned community members and elected town officials, the Town of Mooresville invested in Community Development Corp., now known as Community Foundations, Inc. The purpose of the nonprofit was to encourage community development by assisting first-time home buyers through financial literacy programs and general homebuyer education classes. Housing counseling would allow direct consultation with the family as well as help teach budgeting and credit repair. Community Foundations is a certified housing counseling agency through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“We work with pretty much everyone who walks through our doors,” Brantley said. “What we typically do is figure out the family's financial goals. We work on a personal budget, and we help them work on any credit issues they have. It can be that they have no credit to bad credit, but we teach them what it takes for them to have good credit.”
Partnering with the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, Community Foundations may also be able to provide a portion of a down payment for a house. If clients qualify, funding assistance for the down payment ranges from 10 to 20 percent.
“When they go to purchase a house, we have a program where it allows them to receive some portion toward their down payment,” Brantley said. “We also work with (potential bank) lenders. It just depends on where the client decides they want to pursue a loan.”
Competing with investors
Since taking the role at Community Foundations in 2013, Brantley said one thing she hears most often from clients who have already purchased a house is the grief tied with the lack of education when it came to home ownership. Families that usually turn to Community Foundations are in the income bracket of making $58,000 a year or less – financial assistance guidelines used at Community Foundations are from HUD.
“I will say about 99 percent of people that take our survey indicate that they wish they came to us before they made the purchase (of their house),” she said. “We have a tremendous need for education when it comes to home buying, but there’s also a second component. There is not a lot of housing they can afford in the Mooresville area.”
Brantley said while residents may get financial guidance at their North Main Street location downtown, there’s a chance they may end up living outside of Mooresville.
“There aren’t houses being built that would meet their needs,” she said. “They may end up living in Mooresville, but there’s a chance they won’t. Not only is the market saturated with people investing in property, but when they go to buy a house, they’re in competition with investors. It’s a very tough market, and it’s one that oftentimes forces a family to go outside of Iredell County to get affordable housing.”
Community Foundations has contributed in building homes in the area to help fix that problem. One house was rehabilitated by the nonprofit, one was a new house and one more is slated to be built by the end of the year.
A solution for more affordable housing in Mooresville, Brantley suggested, could be if developers who are already investing in the area were more open to building affordable housing within their developments.
“I would love to see developers create homes for $145,000-$200,000,” she said. “Because that portion of the market is not being served. The town is interested in mixed income developments. We’re going to see more of that in the future.”
Terrell Blackmon, Community and Economic Development Manager for the town, recently asked town commissioners to continue the ongoing partnership that authorizes Mooresville to partner with a joint cooperation agreement extending the Cabarrus, Iredell, Rowan Housing Consortium to also improve area affordable housing. The resolution between the counties was first adopted by the town 2012.
With a unanimous approval at the April 2 meeting to extend the partnership, the town will receive approximately $77,430 in HOME Investment Partnership funds from the Consortium. According to the HUD website, HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households. In order to receive funds, the municipalities must commit to a 25 percent match. Since 2012, Blackmon said the total HOME funds matched by the town is close to half a million dollars.
“The first few years we received the funds, we used them for critical repairs and rehabilitation of existing homes in our community,” Blackmon said. “But the last three or four years, since the federal government changed its program guidelines, we’ve been using dollars to create new home construction. That’s where Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and Community Foundations come into play. We’ve helped sponsor 11 homes (with the help of) Our Towns Habitat and have helped construct a handful of homes with Community Foundations.”
Our Towns Habitat for Humanity is the local chapter of the nationally recognized affordable housing nonprofit that serves Mooresville. Our Towns CEO Chris Ahearn said the need for affordable housing is dire in the area.
The Town of Mooresville, she said, has been “innovative,” when it comes to solving the housing crisis in town – providing a safe, secure and decent place to live. One project the town and the nonprofit partnered together was for the creation the Burke Crossing community in 2015.
Previously known as Burke Dale low-income housing, the town sold the housing development to Our Towns in 2014. Burke Crossing is a 23-lot, single family lot subdivision. Each house has three bedrooms in an 1,100-square-foot space. All Habitat homes are built to be energy-efficient for lower gas and electric bills, Ahearn said, and the sustainability of the house is intentional.
“The consistency of the design is unique to the neighborhood,” she said. “Burke Crossing is a street loop and has a green space in the middle. All the houses along the loop have similar designs. It is a front porch neighborhood so homeowners can meet their neighbors and be a true community.”
A fabric of society
Because of the adoption of the 2016 Comprehensive Housing Strategy by Mooresville Board of Commissioners, Blackmon said the town can offer multiple financial assistance opportunities. Programs like North Carolina Neighborhood Revitalization Program Community Development Grant and the First Time Home Buyer Assistance Program to name some, were rolled out last year. Blackmon said currently, the town is evaluating vacant town-owned properties to determine if they could be flipped for affordable housing opportunities.
“We're still vetting those, and they are in the que,” he said. “We’ll be revealing a list of the properties soon. I can you tell it’s at least a minimum of three parcels. One parcel is as large as 20 acres.”
The town has put in an estimated $400,000 into Burke Crossing, Blackmon said. While the Burke Crossing community has been successful, space to create and build similar communities is scarce. There is lack of housing under $200,000 whether existing housing or new construction for families earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).
“We want to support our developing community as much as we possibly can, and we want to encourage them to consider to workforce housing,” Blackmon said. “And it’s not just about workforce housing, it’s about really striving for mixed (income) communities here in Mooresville. I think it’s important that affordable housing should not be in one concentrated location. Some of the policies we will be presenting to the town board in the future will hopefully address some of those issues.”
Median house sale prices in Mooresville, Blackmon said, are around $250,000, which is not affordable for a family that qualifies for most of HUD programs. Still, he said, Lake Norman should and can be a place for everyone.
“The individuals who work in hotels, in restaurants in town need to have somewhere to live,” Blackmon said. “What we’re finding is that these individuals want to live in the community where they work but are unable to find housing. Our town board feels that it’s important to try and identify workforce housing in our community.
Mooresville is in need of more units for low- and moderate-income families. They are a part of the fabric of this community,” he said. “You have school teachers, firefighters, police officers that fall into that category as well, as moderate income households. I would argue that workforce housing is needed in Mooresville because these individuals help provide a foundation and are active citizens in our community."