In an effort to provide safe, affordable housing to residents, the city of Clinton and Sampson Community College forged a partnership a few years back through which blight could give way to low-cost, well-built homes in the community. However, the home that was to kick off a revolving program has not sold.
City manager John Connet said the city has been unable to sell the house at 115 W. Lee St. and requested City Council’s permission at a recent meeting to seek out prospective tenants for the house. Prior to signing the lease, staff would bring the lease back to Council for its approval, Connet noted.
“We have been working to sell the house that we own at 115 Lee St. and we have had a couple of potential buyers,” said Connet. “Those potential buyers, due to current mortgage situations, have not been able to actually close the loan. So, the house continues to be vacant.”
He said another person has come forward in the last couple weeks about possibly purchasing the home, so that was being pursued a bit further. Connet said he still wanted to bring the matter to Council for discussion.
“We wanted to have a discussion from the Council, since the house has sat there,” the city manager said. “The whole idea of the program from the Council was to provide safe housing, and we know there is a need for safe housing. If the Council would consider allowing us to maybe find someone to possibly rent the facility if we found the right renter, we could approve the appropriate background checks.”
The home was built as a partnership between the city and SCC that aimed to provide city residents with affordable housing options. Through the partnership, deemed the Clinton Affordable Homeownership Program, SCC students would build a home that the city would then have to place and sell.
In April 2010, the City Council approved purchasing its first house as part of the agreement for $65,000. Just a couple weeks later, the house was placed at the city-owned West Lee Street lot, where an unsafe home was previously demolished. The finishing touches were made at 115 W. Lee St at the end of 2010, with nearly all of the work done by way of student labor.
Since that time, there has been some interest generated in the home. Applications were initially made available at City Hall in July 2010 and there were more than a dozen inquiries at the time.
But those inquiries did not produce a buyer.
The house is 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths. SCC placed a value of $52,855 on the house, and it was subsequently professionally appraised at $85,000.
City officials have said the cost can be recouped upon the sale of the house and the one-by-one build and sell process can begin again, and the Clinton Affordable Homeownership Program could prove self-sustaining. If the house was sold for the appraised amount of $85,000, that leaves a project income of $20,000, barring related fees or sales commissions.
“As we sell one house, we plan to purchase another vacant lot with those proceeds in order to place another house from the community college,” Connet said at the time the house was completed. “The ultimate goal is to continue providing safe, affordable homes for low to moderate-income families.”
Thus far, however, there have been no takers.
“We’re going to continue to try to sell it,” said Connet. “It may end up that we look at a lease-purchase option.”
In recent years, the city has sought to remove nuisance homes and residences posing safety hazards through condemnation and demolition. West Lee Street was one of those properties targeted, and ultimately improved, complete with a new home. Numerous homes have been razed, but the removal of blight has yielded a double-edged result. While dilapidated homes have been torn down, the holes left behind have not been filled at a similar rate.
The home placed at W. Lee St. filled at least one of those voids, but itself remains empty. Mayor Lew Starling urged Connet to continue trying to find a tenant.
“I think we need to do whatever it takes,” said Starling. “It’s a nice home, and we need to move along.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.