Sylva leaders cheer affordable housing proposal

fr housingSylva’s leaders are applauding a plan to build a new apartment complex across the road from Harris Hospital as a step toward addressing the town’s long-standing shortage of housing that’s affordable to workers on the low end of the income scale.

Plan advances to convert old hospital to affordable lofts

haywoodHaywood County commissioners will hold a public hearing next Monday on whether to give away the “old hospital” to a developer who will turn it into an affordable apartment complex.

Turning Haywood’s shuttered hospital into apartments hinges on tax credits

haywoodThe plan to convert the old hospital in Haywood County into low-income apartments isn’t a done deal. It’s contingent on both historic preservation and low-income housing tax credits to make it financially viable.

Abandoned hospital to find new purpose

fr oldhospitalA new plan is the works to convert the abandoned old hospital in Haywood County into an affordable housing apartment complex.

Franklin approves Siler road apartments

Plans for a 60-unit apartment complex in Franklin are moving forward after Workforce Homestead received approval for a special permit from the Franklin Board of Aldermen.

60-unit apartment complex proposed in Franklin

fr franklinThe proposed development of a 60-unit apartment complex in Franklin may be another sign that the economy is recovering, slowly but surely. 

The new apartment complex could also be good news for those looking for affordable and high-quality housing.

Waynesville sweetens pot for affordable housing project

The Waynesville Board of Aldermen has waived more than $140,000 in water and sewer fees in the hopes that a Polk County developer will construct a low-income affordable housing development on Hyatt Creek Road.

Can commissioners turn their albatross into apartments for 20-somethings?

There’s only one feasible option for what to do with the abandon Haywood Department of Social Services building: turn it into apartments.

Low-income housing complex proposed in Franklin

A 60-unit affordable housing complex has been proposed in Franklin, but will depend on securing competitive state tax credits for low-income housing to come to fruition.

The project has been proposed by Fitch Development, a group out of Charlotte that specializes in low-income housing projects throughout the state. However, the financial feasibility of the projects hinge on state and federal tax credits. There is only a limited pool of tax credits available, and they can be quite competitive.

There were 26 low-income housing projects that applied for the tax credits from the mountain region in the last round awarded by the state — but there were only enough tax credits to go around for about six.

There is no guarantee the project proposed in Franklin will make the cut. The status of the application will be decided in August.

Pacing the way for the project should the tax credits come through, Franklin town aldermen recently approved a special use permit for the complex, but not before some future neighbors of the complex said they were worried about the potential impact.

“I’m real concerned about the situation,” Thaddass Green of Franklin told town leaders. Green was concerned about traffic, adding that it already “sounds like a racetrack” on Roller Mill Road where the complex would be built.

Green also said that he is worried about his personal safety if an affordable housing complex was nearby.

Patty and Vance Wall’s property is adjacent to the four-and-a-half acre tract where the housing would go in.

“You can see from our deck where this would be,” said Vance Wall.

He said a 60-unit complex as proposed would “really change life for us. It’s going to impact us majorly because this would no longer be just a residential, single-family dwelling area. It’s going to change the whole area.”

Like Green, Patty Wall expressed concerns about the two-lane road being able to handle more traffic.

“I just don’t know if this road can handle the amount of traffic this would bring,” she said, adding that Roller Mill Road is already dangerous enough as it is.

Hollis Fitch, president of the development company, said residents would be screened via credit and criminal background checks. Additionally, he said, internet-based cameras with views of the public areas in the housing complex would be installed. The program records up to 72 hours of camera footage, and Franklin police officers would be able to tap into the recordings through the Internet, he said.

“We’ve found that to be a very good deterrent and a very good way to stop any type of problems that might happen,” Fitch said.

Fitch also said that before building permits could be issued a required traffic study would be conducted.

“I’ve listened to the neighbors and it seems there might be a traffic issue on Roller Mill Road,” Fitch said in acknowledgement, adding that the company would take whatever safety measures were recommended by the state Department of Transportation. He said that could mean adding a three-way stop or a traffic light.

Roller Mill Road is an access into Westgate Terrace, a Franklin shopping center in the western part of town. Fitch said that one of the requirements for state funding was being within a half-mile of both a grocery store and drugstore, both of which are located in Westgate, hence the selection of this particular site.

The development would consist of three buildings with six entrances plus a community building and management office, a playground, “tot lot,” and sitting areas.

“That’s going to be a lot of good folks who are going to have a good place to live at a price they can afford, and good, clean, suitable housing close into town at a good location,” said Mayor Joe Collins, addressing the concerned neighbors. “Maybe there will be some mighty good folks who will move in there, and that might ease some of the sting.”

Alderman Sissy Pattillo emphasized that there is a current lack of affordable housing in Franklin for young professionals, though she also expressed concerns about future traffic impacts to Roller Mill Road.

“We’ve cut through there and you really take your life in your hands,” Pattillo said about Roller Mill Road.

Old Waynesville hospital could be converted to affordable housing

Haywood County officials foresee the historic hospital in Waynesville one day being transformed into affordable or senior housing.

“That would be my vision,” said Commissioner Bill Upton. “Something might show up that we haven’t thought of, but affordable housing is definitely needed.”

The mammoth brick building occupies an entire block, with 125 rooms and 50,000 square feet of outside space. The Department of Social Services is moving out next fall, and the county is seeking proposals on what to do with the building once vacated.

Developers have until late October to propose a new use for the hospital, but housing of some sort appears to be the commissioners’ preference.

“I felt that would be the highest and best use for that structure,” Commissioner Kevin Ensley said. According to Ensley, at least one developer has already looked at converting the building into affordable housing.

“I wouldn’t have any objection,” said Commissioner Skeeter Curtis. “We always need some housing.”

The Department of Social Services will relocate in fall 2011 to the site of the former Wal-Mart store in Clyde. Commissioners decided it’d be more cost-effective to buy and renovate the deserted superstore rather than fix up the crumbling hospital.

The old hospital was originally built in 1927 and expanded in the 1950s. County officials have said it would cost roughly $6.1 million to renovate it.

Commissioners have complained that the building will need a host of major renovations including a new roof, new windows and rewiring to accommodate the latest technology.

As the first county-owned hospital in North Carolina, however, the building may be eligible to be included in the National Registry of Historic Places, which comes with tax credits for renovations.

“I think the historic tax credits are what really makes it attractive for developers,” said Ensley.


A time of great need

Mountain Projects, a community action agency in Haywood and Jackson counties, may be on the ground assisting any developer that steps in.

“If they choose to do affordable housing, at that point, we’ll get involved,” said Patsy Dowling, director of Mountain Projects.

The agency can guide developers through the highly competitive process of receiving low-income housing tax credits from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.

Earlier this year, Mountain Projects helped launch Smokey Meadows, an affordable apartment complex in Canton. It filled up in record time.

Dowling is well-aware of the struggles that the working class faces in tracking down affordable housing, especially in recent times. She has seen the waiting list for affordable housing assistance backlogged for as long as three years.

“Our waiting list got so long we had to close it and stop taking applications,” said Dowling. “It’s back open, but the wait is tremendous …hundreds and hundreds of people in Haywood County are on the waiting list.”

Mountain Projects is helpless to help even those who walk in with their suitcases with nowhere to go.

While neighbors may be wary about living near low-income housing, Dowling said a comprehensive background check is done and clients must sign a strict 17-page lease.

“In these apartments, it’s not just anybody,” said Dowling.

Ensley agreed that bringing affordable housing to the area would only bring benefits.

“I don’t think that low-income or moderate-income housing is a negative at all,” said Ensley.

Another bonus is that the building would be put back on the tax rolls, Ensley and Dowling said. Affordable housing complexes not only pay taxes, but also create jobs.

If a developer takes on the task of renovating the old hospital, the central office for Haywood County Schools, which occupies one small section of the building, would likely be uprooted.

As commissioners await proposals, Curtis said the last thing he wants to see is the hospital destroyed.

“It’d be nice if we could save what we could of it,” Curtis said.

“A lot of our people were born there,” said Upton, who worked in the 1927 building while serving as school superintendent.

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