Troy targets affordable housing.
By Todd Cohen
TROY, N.C. [06.09.04] — Reviving a slum by building affordable housing and giving first-time homebuyers a boost is the focus of a new initiative launched by the town of Troy.
“We help the people who want to own a home, and take down the blighted area at the same time,” says Troy Mayor Roy Maness.
Troy’s “Rent-to-Own” initiative was the brainchild of Maness, retired president of Weaver Construction Co. in Greensboro, who says rebuilding neighborhoods depends on balancing incentives for homeowners with controls to make sure one “bad apple” does not undermine the renewal effort.
To run the program, the town created the nonprofit Troy Neighborhood Redevelopment Corp. and has secured federal, state and foundation grants totaling more than $1.4 million.
The group has purchased and is razing about 20 properties in a run-down mill village known as Mill Hill, and aims to buy and demolish the remaining 20 to 25 properties.
The nonprofit is relocating homeowners, and already has built four new homes in the neighborhood, which has been renamed Smitherman Village, recognizing the cotton mill that once operated there.
The idea, says Maness, is to equip people who want to live in the new neighborhood with financial assistance and training to help them rent and eventually own homes there.
Tying counseling on financial and home-ownership with rental and mortgage assistance, the program screens applicants and requires that those who take part in the two-year rent program enroll in classes to prepare them to own a home.
Participants pay 30 percent of their income to rent the 1,200-square-foot homes, which include three bedrooms and two bath units and are built with low-maintenance materials such as brick and vinyl siding.
Rent payments go to the nonprofit, which puts the money into a fund for future upkeep and repairs for the homes, and for assistance with downpayments that participants make when they buy the homes.
The nonprofit has hired All-American Associates, a for-profit consulting firm in Mount Airy, to work as a housing counselor to hold monthly meetings for participants on topics ranging from credit and finance to banking, insurance and homeowner responsibilities.
The program is designed to sustain itself financially, with mortgage payments used to pay for construction of additional housing in Smitherman Village and, eventually, other parts of town.
Funding so far includes $600,000 from the state’s Community Development Block Grant program to raze the old neighborhood; two grants totaling $458,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide seed money and fund construction of houses; a third HUD grant for $275,000 to be paid this summer; $50,000 from the rural development program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for administrative support and counseling; and $60,000 from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem for counseling.
Roughly 20 people have submitted applications to take part in the program, and the first four tenants moved into their new homes last December.
Town Manager James Justice, who chairs the development corporation, says redeveloping neighborhoods depends on homeownership because homeowners have a stake in their neighborhood, while decaying neighborhoods typically have a lot of rental properties and a high turnover of tenants.
Maness, who recently hosted local officials from throughout North Carolina to talk about the program, also says HUD’s Section 8 rental assistance program needs to be changed and expanded so that vouchers now used for rental properties can be used to buy more homes.
“The existing programs that are out there for housing are not doing enough to help local communities solve their housing problem and create better neighborhoods,” says Justice. “We don’t want to ask for any new funding. We just want the existing funding to be used differently.”