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One Step at a Time: Developers meet with Planning Commission to Discuss Affordable Housing in Boone

By Ethan Woodhouse

Dec. 10, 2012. Boone is one step closer to bringing affordable housing to its residents.

The Town of Boone Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the Town Council vote on rezoning a 10-acre tract of land where Clawson Mobile Home Park resided until closing in October. The area is currently zoned strictly for mobile homes. If the council votes in favor of rezoning, the construction of multifamily residential homes would be permitted.

The proposal was brought forward by United Developers (U.D.) of Fayetteville, N.C. James Smith, President, and Bill Owen spoke extensively to the commission regarding the proposed project, which would include 72 units among three eight-unit buildings and three 16-unit buildings. 52 of the units would be two-bedroom, the remaining 20 would be three-bedroom. 

James Smith and Bill Owen present to the Planning Commission

The commission demonstrated concern for tree preservation and a need for additional sidewalks. U.D. showed no issue in meeting their needs.

“I think this is a fabulous project,” Bunk Spann, Chair of the Planning Commission, said. “It’s the best project, in my view, that we’ve had come before us for this particular land use and it’s highly needed. We’ve spent years and years discussing the need for affordable housing in this community.”

The proposed complex would include a playground, one-acre park, community room with computers and internet access and washer and driers. All of the units are Energy Star certified.

Since 1979, U.D. has specialized in affordable housing, developing near 4,000 units in North and South Carolina, and Boone appears to be a prime location for their next investment.

A preliminary market study conducted by U.D. found the median household income for Watauga residents to be near $58,000. The proposed complex would be targeted at, but not limited to those making between 40 and 60 percent of that amount.

“That preliminary market study indicated that there was a dire need for affordable housing in this market,” Owen said early in the presentation. “Everyone can not afford to own their own home and everybody can not afford to have a luxury apartment.”

If the council agrees with this dire need and finds U.D.’s plan desirable, the next step would be to apply for a tax credit award through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, something never received in Boone or Watauga County. Without the award, plans for the complex would be scraped.

In 2011, 162 applications for this tax credit were submitted all across North Carolina and 42 were awarded. United Developers submitted three of their own in Cumberland, Hoke and Johnston counties. Each was approved. Smith estimated U.D. receives the North Carolina tax credit “75-80 percent of the time” they apply.

The application deadline for tax credit is Jan. 25. Awards will be announced in August 2013 and construction could potentially begin January 2014. But first, the Town Council must approve to rezone the prospective site. They will gather at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday to make their final decision.