A new subdivision in the works will add 27 houses to the Wilmington area’s small inventory of affordable homes.
Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity recently gained preliminary approval from New Hanover County’s Technical Review Committee to move forward with Blendin Meadows, which will be a 27-lot neighborhood of three- to four-bedroom single family homes on 11 acres in the 6300 block of Gordon Road.
The property suited Habitat more than it might a private developer, said Steve Spain, executive director of Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity.
“One of the reasons it wasn’t attractive enough to people who could pay more to develop it differently than we would was that one side of the street is existing lots and homeowners,” Spain said. “When you can only develop one side of the street, it is cost prohibitive. We’re only able to do it because of all the community support that we get to make that happen.”
As a result, Habitat will have to bring the existing unfinished road up to N.C. Department of Transportation standards and extend water and sewer to the existing and upcoming homes.
The organization is working with the county on getting block grant funding to finish the road in the area and still has to cross some NCDOT hurdles.
Established in 1987, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity has served more than 175 families through the construction and rehabilitation of homes throughout New Hanover and Pender counties, according to the organization’s website.
Blendin Meadows would be the organization’s second-largest project. Completed in 2013, The Cottages at Cornerstone and Gideon Pointe are Cape Fear Habitat’s other subdivisions in Wilmington, and they are home to 40 Habitat families.
Not everyone qualifies for a Habitat for Humanity home.
“They have jobs, they have income and they have demonstrated an ability to save,” Spain said of Habitat homeowners.
Requirements include need, the ability to pay a mortgage and a willingness to accumulate “sweat equity” hours by helping to build Habitat homes for others as well as themselves.
“Right now we’re not accepting new applications, and we’re working through the people currently in the program,” which number about 12 to 13, Spain said.
But that is expected to change, with the organization’s rolling application program set to reopen soon.
The homes at Blendin Meadows are expected to cost about $120,000, though that could change, Spain said.
Homes at prices below $200,000 are scarce, especially in the city of Wilmington.
The lower the price, the fewer homes available, according to the 2016 Cape Fear Area Housing Economic Climate Report released at the end of June. At a presentation of the report, produced by Cape Fear Realtors and the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association, a Realtor said that’s one of the reasons affordable housing is an issue in the Wilmington area.
Jody Wainio, of Buyers Choice Realty, said that as of May this year in New Hanover County, homes in the $100,000-$200,000 price range were at a 1.5-month supply level.
“Over 60 percent of our area workers are low-income service workers. The sad thing is, they can’t afford to live here anymore,” said Wainio, who is part of a city-county committee on affordable housing.
Even higher-income residents, including those at or near the Wilmington area’s median income of $48,700, are struggling to pay for housing and spending more than 30 percent of what they make on their housing needs, the report pointed out.
The city-county affordable housing panel has made some recommendations, including density incentives for developers and the creation of a housing trust fund.
Meanwhile, Habitat and the volunteers who support the effort work to make a dent.
“We don’t expect to actually start construction of the houses at Blendin Meadows until next spring or summer because we have all of the development work to do,” Spain said.
That work will cost at least $1 million.
“We’re seeking help through the county, through foundations through individual donors, through the N.C. Housing Finance Agency … We will get this done one way or another,” Spain said. “The more support we can get, the easier it will be to go on and get the next development started.”