April 24, 2008

Plans for afforadble housing in Franklin

Affordable-housing plan draws praise
Leaders discuss waived fees, other incentives at work session

Review Appeal• April 23, 2008

FRANKLIN — Ermon Lature might be skeptical about a new push to create more affordably priced housing for Franklin's working class.
In the past, other plans amounted to only so much talk.

Instead, Lature, longtime executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Williamson County, says he and other lower-cost housing proponents are encouraged by a new city proposal that would give city incentives for builders and developers willing to build cheaper homes.
"It's been frustrating that not a lot has been done," said Lature, 75. "They're more encouraged by this than anything that's ever been done."
While a final plan has not been approved, city aldermen and a 27-member committee are shaping the city's first ordinance that would offer incentives, such as waiving some city fees, that would lower the cost of building a home here.
These are small steps, but supporters say they're encouraged by what could be ahead as the ordinance gets greater scrutiny.
"It's a great beginning to have the city address these issues of work force and affordable housing for the community," said Stephen Murray, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership of Williamson County.
Bransford: Give it teethParing down homebuilding costs here is a tall order considering average home prices in Williamson County remain steep — even in the midst of the national housing meltdown.
The county's average home price was $439,809, according to March 2008 Williamson County Association of Realtors figures. The median home price in March was $375,000.
For years, officials have said it's those prices that keep Franklin's working class — such as policemen, firefighters and teachers — living outside Williamson County.
Under the first draft of the ordinance proposal, city officials would not seek building permit or plan review fees from nonprofit agencies building low-cost housing in Franklin.
Using figures based on a typical Habitat home that sells for $100,000, Lature calculates the savings would only amount to several thousand dollars now. But he and others hope ongoing discussions will see the city ultimately back away from collecting such things as sewer and water tap fees.
"That could amount to as much as $10,000" a home, Lature said.
Other incentives might include allowing a developer to build more homes in a subdivision, if he or she agreed to build a certain number of affordably priced homes there.
Aldermen generally liked the first proposal they saw at an April work session but have not voted yet. More discussions are planned before any action is taken.
"This gives us some teeth to put into play to move this whole concept of affordable-priced housing forward," Alderman Pearl Bransford said.
While support for the plan may be inside City Hall, Murray says the push for the ordinance is coming from outside.
"It's coming from the community up," Murray said. "It isn't all staff-driven. It's community driven."

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