Rent-to-own housing potentially coming to city

Published 12:21 pm Friday, February 24, 2017

Franklin’s city council voted 6-0 with one abstention to participate in the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s plans to construct 25 single-family homes in a proposed development in the 500 block of Bank Street in Franklin during the Feb. 13 council meeting.

The development will be known as the Estates at Bank Street and will be located on the site of the former Suburban Gardens public housing complex. According to Phillip Page Jr., executive director of the FRHA, the new houses will be leased to homeowners on a rent-to-own basis over a 15-year period, after which they would have the opportunity to purchase their homes.

“The program is not restricted to former public housing residents,” Page said. “Low- and moderate-income families will have the opportunity to rent a home prior to purchasing it while they participate in FRHA-sponsored homeownership classes.”

The FRHA hopes to secure funding for the project by applying to the Virginia Housing Development Authority for housing tax credits. To secure said tax credits, the state requires that the housing authority first obtain city council’s approval, which is why Page brought the proposal before the council during their meeting. The VHDA also requires that the housing authority create a separate, single-purpose legal entity to handle the rental and sale of the houses.

The abstaining vote was Councilman Linwood Johnson of ward four, who said he needed more information before he could support the project. Councilman Greg McLemore of ward three asked Page if there was any possibility of further reducing costs by equipping the houses with solar panels, to which he responded that solar panels have been effective in helping residents reduce the amount of electricity they purchase from the city, but would not totally replace the need for the homes to be connected to the city’s grid.

Page added that the homes will be built to Earth Craft Gold standards, which he said are similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards created by the U.S. Green Building Council. No date for beginning construction has been set yet though.

“We will apply to VHDA in March of 2017 in a competitive grant process,” he  said. “We anticipate receiving the determination of VHDA in June of 2017 and, if we are successful, we will proceed from there with specific dates for construction.”

The former Suburban Gardens public housing complex was vacated in 2008, with all tenants relocated to other housing, and the structures were demolished in 2010. The lot where the proposed housing development will be constructed is currently vacant.