DASH, City of LaGrange apply for CHIP funding

Published 10:30 am Friday, November 30, 2018

During Tuesday’s council meeting, representatives with DASH requested that the city apply for a grant program that could fund new homes in the Hillside community.

The LaGrange City Council voted unanimously to apply for a Community Home Investment Program grant that is being written by DASH. The city and county are currently taking part in a program through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing, which identifies housing needs in the community, and while the analysis is far from its completion, the local partners taking part in the program agreed to have the DASH project be the local project to pursue the funding.

“One of the things that has been brought to our attention is the need to go after all the money that we possibly can to help with housing — all the available grant funding that is out there,” City Planner Leigh Threadgill said.

If approved, the CHIP funding would be used to construct three new craftsman style homes in the Hillside community. Those homes will be sold to an individual or family who makes 80 percent or less of the median income for the area.

“They are not really large grants, and with the cost of homes going up, we’ll only be able to build three,” said Marie McNally, the executive director of DASH of LaGrange. “The program that we are looking at is a $600,000 maximum grant, and we went a little under that for the ask for these three homes.”

McNally said that while DASH has plenty of experience writing grants for rehabilitation, this will be its first application for a new construction grant. Due to the nature of the grant, the City of LaGrange will need to be the official applicant. However, she said DASH has already done most of the work — both financially and in the writing process — to get the grant. The City of LaGrange will not be required to commit any funding to the project because of the money that DASH has already spent to acquire the property.

According to McNally and the CHIP 2019 Application, the total development hard costs would be $149,067 per unit for a total request of $436,920. Of that amount, an estimated $115,000 per home is planned to be used for construction, and $34,067 per location of funds already spent on property acquisition and demolition will count as match funding.

“Vacant lots happen usually because there is some kind of issue with that existing home that sat there,” McNally said. “So, at some point in time we probably did acquire homes that really needed to be torn down, and over time, those houses were torn down. So, there is an investment in that footprint, and that is one of the things that the grant will allow you to do, is to look at the investment. What is that lot? What did it cost to get that lot? That will be reflected in the grant as a match or contribution.”

McNally also noted that even without the already complete acquisition and demolition work, due to the current housing market, the homes will still be worth less once they are completed than what they cost to build, and council members with experience in the housing market and construction confirmed that statement.

“I’m not trying to discourage anyone from building a house, but it is kind of like buying a new car,” LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said. “When you drive it off the lot, it goes down in value 20 percent. Construction costs are just higher then typically what the market [value is].”

The homes will be craftsman style houses, and it is expected to cost $115 per square foot to build for the 1,000 square foot homes. They are expected to have a market value of $96,000, which will go back to the state following the sale.

“I couldn’t build it for that, but there are a few guys who can do that,” said Council Member Jim Arrington, who is also a local builder. “What I am saying is it would more than likely cost a little bit more, but you are on target. I think everyone in this room is probably thinking that is high, but it is not high to build a house.”

If the homes are not sold within 9 months of completion, the city would need to rent the homes to individuals until they can be sold, according to the terms of the grant. Several city council members stated during the council work session that they did not wish to become landlords, and if the homes did not sell, the city may look into if DASH can take over the properties again. McNally said that DASH will begin to market the homes for sale even before they are completely built to extend the window for potential buyers.

Council Member Willie Edmondson said that he would like to see more senior housing in LaGrange, considering the 500-person waiting list for Tucker Cottages. McNally said a senior housing project may be a good candidate for a Community Development Block grant.

The LaGrange City Council will meet again on Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.