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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE A street sign marks the intersection of Bee Balm Avenue and 10th Street on Tuesday at the Homes at Willow Bend project, a development by Partners for Better Housing. The project involves building about 80 homes for families of mixed incomes with affordable financing available. It broke ground in 2017. Partners said construction should begin in the fall.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Construction on the Homes at Willow Bend should begin in fall, according to the nonprofit group behind the project.

Keaton Smith and Casey Hoffman with Partners for Better Housing updated the City Council on Tuesday about the progress of the project, which broke ground in 2017. That year, the council approved putting $1 million to help build roads, drainage elements and other infrastructure.

Willow Bend fast facts

• Mixed-income neighborhood.

• Permanent homeownership and attainable houses evenly distributed.

• Shared-equity homeownership through deed restrictions.

• Traditional town form to enable community interaction.

Source: Partners for Better Housing

About 80 homes will go on nine acres east of South Washington Avenue, three blocks away from Walker Park. Designs will vary for one-, two- and three-bedroom homes ranging from 650 to 1,700 square feet.

Partners has adopted a financing program to create a neighborhood with families of mixed incomes. The $1 million the project received from the city reduced the overall cost, which in turn will reduce the price of the homes.

A subsidy will be available to a third of homes bought by families making below 80% median income. Another third will stay reserved for families making 80-100% of average income, rather than becoming available to investors. Profit from the homes sold at market rate will be used to sustain the program, Smith said.

Median income for the Fayetteville metropolitan area is $69,900, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For example, a $200,000 home would be sold to a two-person family with a $35,000 interest-free loan, which is the subsidy. That would lower the buyer price, down payment and loan amount. So in that scenario, the monthly payment would go from $1,316 without the subsidy to $1,078 with the subsidy applied. The $35,000 loan is due upon sale, or after 30 years.

Partners also will reserve the first right of refusal if a home is to be sold, so it can go to a pre-approved buyer. The $35,000 initial subsidy would be due back to Partners, and the resale price capped at a 2% annual increase. The deed restriction keeps the loan available to multiple iterations of homeowners, Smith said.

Partners submitted the final plan to the city last month. High Street, development manager and listing broker on the project, is working on builder specifications. Smith said construction costs should be worked out in about a month, with homes going up in the fall.

Smith said the team delved into some uncharted development territory contributing to timeline delays. But the lessons learned will benefit the community in the long run, he said.

"The shared-equity homeownership program development -- that's been a huge learning curve for the organization, and a major capacity-building opportunity," Smith said. "We've really been focused on designing everything with scalability in mind. I think that's a foundation that can be built on."

Smith and Hoffman fielded questions about the price per square foot on the homes, which hasn't been set, Smith said. The square-footage cost of the smaller homes is likely to be higher, he said.

Council Member Sarah Marsh compared the price per square foot for a smaller home to a tire. Smaller homes still have the most expensive parts, which is the bathroom and kitchen, and the bedrooms are the least expensive, she said.

"You're still buying the tire whether you inflate it to the bigger cost or not," Marsh said. "When you're looking at small houses, the price per square foot analogy is not really the right thing to look at."

Hoffman said Willow Bend is a case study for attainable housing approaches not familiar to the region. The project has a triple-bottom-line approach to be socially equitable, environmentally sensitive and economically productive.

"It's a case study for small-scale infill, private-public partnerships and also low-impact development," she said.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE A grader sits Tuesday in an empty lot at the Homes at Willow Bend project, a development by Partners for Better Housing. The project involves building about 80 homes for families of mixed incomes with affordable financing available. It broke ground in 2017. Partners said construction should begin in the fall.

NW News on 08/14/2019

Print Headline: Council hears project details

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