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Mountain Projects eyes parcel for affordable housing

This rectangular lot in the vicinity of Allens Creek could soon belong to Mountain Projects. Haywood GIS photo This rectangular lot in the vicinity of Allens Creek could soon belong to Mountain Projects. Haywood GIS photo

A 4.4-acre parcel in the Allens Creek community could soon put a small dent in Haywood County’s affordable housing crisis, if negotiations between the owner and local human services agency Mountain Projects go well. 

“We do have an option on it, and we’re in the process of doing due diligence on that, looking at at our finances and our options, but there are a lot of unknowns at this point,” said Patsy Davis, executive director of Mountain Projects. 

The parcel, owned by Troy Muse, is located within Waynesville town limits at the southeast corner of Pinewood Drive and Lickstone Road, which itself branches off from Allens Creek Road. Assessed at $42,000 and zoned for residential use, it would be used for up to 17 traditional three-bedroom, two-bath single family homes. 

The land purchase would be in conjunction with a United States Department of Agriculture program called mutual self-help housing.

“Under the grant program, they pay us to manage a project where we come up with the infrastructure cost,” said Anna Rogers, a housing recruiter with Mountain Projects. That means Mountain Projects keeps up with purchase orders, bookkeeping and the like. 

Participants then apply for a USDA mortgage with the help of Mountain Projects; interest rates are currently around 3.75 percent but can go as low as 1 percent, based on the applicant’s income. There’s no down payment, and closing costs are rolled into the mortgage loan. 

“That pays for everything from the lot to the landscaping and some of the infrastructure costs like paving,” said Rogers. 

If implemented, it would be Mountain Projects’ fifth such venture under the USDA program; Rogers said they’d built 51 homes as a result so far. Although some are scattered in sites around the county, the Barefoot Ridge development in Clyde — which came about with a land donation from the town — is one such example of a small neighborhood cluster. 

“If all goes well, it would be the biggest since Barefoot Ridge,” she said. “We’re really not developers per se, we’re not there to make a profit per se, we’re partnering with the USDA to create housing, which is very much needed.”

It would take approximately two or three years to complete the project if the land purchase moves forward, with homes being built in groups of four or five at a time. 

“The owners are involved in every phase of the build,” said Rogers. 

Program participants are required to share labor on all houses in the group, meaning they’re not just building houses. 

“They’re working together to help build communities,” she said. 

As a condition of ownership, new owners will put in about 20 hours a week doing anything that doesn’t require a license. Even when licensed professionals like electricians and plumbers are called for, owners help them clean up or perform associated tasks. 

“They may end up doing some framing, laying their own floor, putting up vinyl,” she said. 

But they’re not just slapping up clapboard shacks and calling it affordable housing — Rogers said that the typical loan value of the completed houses is about $165,000, but they’re usually assessed close to $190,000, which helps owners quickly build equity. 

As with all development, water and sewer costs are increasingly concerning; Rogers said she was waiting to hear about engineering costs before being able to determine the feasibility of the purchase. 

Still, she’s hopeful everything could come together this fall. 

“We want to do things that the community wants, and I know these people are very excited about this,” she said. “They’re workers with children, mostly, and they’re looking forward to it.”

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