Jim Yamin, president of the construction development company Workforce Homestead, has tried to build a 64-unit affordable housing unit in Waynesville since last year. The two-story development would sit on six acres on Hyatt Creek Road and would offer two- and three-bedroom units to people who make 60 percent of the county’s median income.
“I am motivated primarily by a social mission. I really drive a lot of gratification from the working families we serve,” Yamin said. “There is nothing better than that.”
However, to keep it affordable, the project must compete against others for the state’s housing tax credit through the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.
Last year, when Yamin came to the town with the project, the board agreed to loan his company $106,700 to install a 1,600-foot sewer main from U.S. 23/74, down Hyatt Creek Road to Freeman Road. Yamin then applied for state funds, but the project was not competitive enough.
“It was close,” said Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal.
This year, to sweeten the pot and hopefully make the application more competitive, the Waynesville Board of Aldermen committed to waiving the water and sewer tap and capacity fees, which amount to $142,650 — nearly $36,000 more than the loan, which it will no longer make.
Onieal told the aldermen that without the waiver, the project would not likely receive state backing. Without state funds, the project would not happen, meaning the town would not receive the fee money anyway.
“It would not be money out of the town’s pocket. It is simply money we would receive with the development,” Onieal said.
She added that if constructed, the housing complex will increase the town’s tax base by increasing the property’s value. The total estimated cost of the project is $8.2 million.
While the entire board supported the wavier, Onieal did warn the aldermen that the decision could prompt other developers to come calling, and the town doesn’t have any incentive policy to point to.
“We don’t have an ironclad economic development or community development policy,” she said. “We have to be aware of possibly setting a precedent.”
Onieal made a point to say that just because the board approved a waiver this once does not mean it would grant one to someone else.