Since 2004, CAHEC has offered the Open Doors Homeownership Grant to assist nonprofit organizations who develop for-sale affordable housing within our footprint. To date, CAHEC has awarded $660,000 towards this homeownership initiative to help provide housing to families earning 80 percent or less of the area median income. As our team of grant readers reviewed the applications this year, we evaluated how each organization addressed a strong community need, the positive impact their development would have on the community, and their strategy for alleviating the shortage of affordable housing. We also considered the social services provided to homeowners and the organization’s proposed use of CAHEC’s funding.
Founded in 1983, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity was the first habitat affiliate in North Carolina. Through homeownership and Home Repair Programs, they have helped more than 1,700 adults and children achieve strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.
Tourism and the in-migration of retirees defines the Asheville economy, resulting in a rapidly gentrifying city with local workers “priced out” by development oriented to tourists and affluent newcomers. Their newest development, New Heights, is a multi-generational neighborhood located 6 miles from downtown Asheville that will include a mix of 98 single family homes, two-story townhomes, and single-level townhomes. With our grant funding, they will be hiring a Landscape Architect and paying for all permitting fees for the first phase of the development. The Landscape Architect will develop a landscape plan for the entire neighborhood to include walking trails, a mail kiosk, landscaped common areas, and a bus shelter.
Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) was founded in 1988 by volunteers and their first task was to repair the roof of an elderly widow. That repair was the beginning of their Emergency Home Repair Program, and they have since grown to include construction of new homes for affordable homeownership, development of affordable rental properties, and the MHO Home Fund which provides soft-second financing to low-income families who are purchasing a home.
Their current development, Lillie Farm Cove, is a subdivision of 46 single family homes that provides a mix of different housing: 18 Self-Help Homes where small groups of homeowners work to help each other build their own homes, and 26 “Turnkey” homes where MHO is the contractor. Of the “Turnkey” homes, half are being sold affordably to low-income families with the assistance of the MHO Home Fund. The other half are to be sold to any buyer and any cash generated from those sales helps MHO provide the soft-second financing for the affordable sales. MHO will be using our grant funds to pay for an unanticipated cost associated with their storm water drainage system. They will also use the funding to dispose of any accumulated sediment from the pipes once it is removed.
Athens Land Trust was founded in 1994 to strengthen the community and its neighborhoods by developing affordable housing while protecting natural resources. For over 25 years, they have strategically invested over $17 million in rehabilitating and constructing new single-family and rental housing that serves 450 individuals, including 60 homes in two historically African American neighborhoods targeted for revitalization.
A major obstacle for the housing stock in this area is the growing demand for student housing, which forced some low-income families out of their homes due to prohibitive costs and pressure from outside investors. Their current project, the Cottages at Dublin, will be a cottage-style development of 13 permanently affordable single-family homes, which will include a communal greenspace encouraging neighbors to spend time on their front porches or outside in shared spaces. Athens Land Trust will be using our funding to support pre- and post-purchase educational activities, including homebuyer education courses, workshops on foreclosure prevention and home maintenance, and establishing the neighborhood community garden.