Springfield officials will research what other cities are doing to lessen the burden on Habitat for Humanity.
The Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County asked city council to waive the impact fees for homes it plans to build in the Shadowbrook subdivision. The group has an opportunity to purchase repossessed lots in the neighborhood and if it can buy the lots, wants to build there.
“Our whole purpose is to provide a decent, low-income house, which we don’t have in this area,” said Jimmy Rutland, executive director of the Effingham Habitat for Humanity.
The impact fees are just over $6,000 per home, according to City Manager Brett Bennett. At that level, they would account for 11 percent of the total cost of a home, Rutland said.
“That’s pretty steep for a group like Habitat,” Bennett said.
Said Rutland: “We actually would pay more in impact fees than we would for the lots.”
Since the subdivision isn’t in the city limits but inside the city’s service delivery area, the lots may not be covered by the city’s impact fee ordinance but instead by a water-sewer service agreement. That would be easier to amend, Bennett said.
“We have a lot more flexibility,” he said.
Bennett said he wanted to bring the issue before council in order for them to discuss it. Council member Kenny Usher said most of the families in the Shadowbrook subdivision are middle-class and had to pay the impact fees.
“Would it be fair to give a break to another when these folks have had to pay those fees?” he asked.
Mayor Jeff Northway appeared to be in favor of lowering the impact fees for Habitat.
“We’d be putting another family in a home,” he said. “I think those folks would understand. I would like to see something done for them. If that money will help them get those lots and move forward, I’m all for it.”
Habitat is in talks with the bank about lots in phase 3 of Shadowbrook, which is currently undeveloped. Rutland said having Habitat homes in that phase could spur other builders and families.
“We’re not going to build four houses side by side,” he said. “If we scatter the houses out, it will encourage other people to go in there. We do not want to have Habitat for Humanity subdivisions. We want to take people and mix them in with mixed income communities.”
Habitat also has looked at acquiring lots in Guyton for potential homes, but some lots are tied up in inheritance issues, Rutland said, and getting the title to those parcels is difficult.
“We don’t have a lot of blighted areas we’re going in and rehabbing,” Rutland said. “We don’t have a lot of areas for low-income housing.”
Most of the lots Habitat has acquired to build homes have come through tax sales, Rutland said. The average house payment is $400 a month, and putting a family in a home has had a positive effect, he said.
“It has a major impact on a family,” Rutland said. “It has a significant impact on a community. We have had no dropouts from school. We have a very good track record.”
Habitat is asking to pay $950 and the meter fee instead of the full impact fee.
“We need community government partners to do what we do,” Rutland said. “We are not the solution.”
Rutland also said Habitat is seeking to become Housing of Urban Development certified and to be involved in the Georgia Dream Home Program. Habitat needs to be HUD certified to be a mortgage holder, he said.