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LETTERS / We Live in a College Town, Embrace It.

Dear Editor,

I hate to write this letter, but it needs to be said.  My business developed Boone’s first affordable housing project, Hampton Estates which was designed for the working people of Boone, which included restrictions on owner occupancy and discouraged purchase for student rental.  Until the economy got bad and people who moved away could not sell their homes, no rental was allowed in Hampton Estates.  We offered a mix of single family homes, duplex town homes and condos at what are affordable prices in this area (just under $160,000 to $350,000).  While everyone would love to see $150,000 starter homes, it is not possible because our land cost, lack of sewer and water and high land development and foundation costs make houses un-affordable once you include the cost of the house.  I was fortunate to have an ideal location in the Town with sewer and water and the ability to develop enough density to offer homes at low prices.  Everyone, myself included, was sure that we would be overwhelmed by demand from all those people who are having to commute from Mountain City and Deep Gap, who work at the University and the Hospital and Samaritan’s purse.  We opened our doors Halloween of 2004 offering 16 homes, 16 duplex town homes and 24 condos in a family neighborhood (with no students allowed) with pricing from $159,900.  To date we have sold 14 single family homes, 12 town homes and could never generate enough interest to build the 24 condos.  We still have town homes for sale at $175,000 and you can buy a finished lot for $30,000.  I can tell you that selling houses at the rate of 3-4 per year is not a good business proposition when you have to pay interest on all the unsold property and improvements.  More than one builder/developer has gone broke because of just such lack of sales.  We had deep pockets and were determined to succeed, so we survived – not thrived – just survived

So exactly who are all these people the “Town” needs to provide the opportunity for “affordable” housing?  Exactly who is and how big is Boone’s urban middle class?  Maybe these people don’t want to live in the Town and actually like living in Mountain City and Deep Gap.   Fortunately, there are lots of affordable places to live around here if you don’t want to live in town with the students.  I have been involved with the affordable housing task force since its inception and went out on a limb to provide quality housing to the Boone community with self-imposed restrictions to create Boone’s neo-traditional family neighborhood.  It is a wonderful neighborhood and is praised by residents, the Town and all those who have seen it, but it is a business failure due to lack of sufficient demand.  So why do we need to create more of something people don’t want?  With all the wonderful places to live in this area, just who really wants to be “urban”?  If you do, please come to Hampton Estates where we still have affordable housing we will gladly sell you.  The Town’s new multifamily ordinance is well intentioned and misguided.  We live in a college town, embrace it. 
Scott Porter
Developer of Hampton Estates and 
CEO of the 2007 Small Business of the Year