COVINGTON -- Capital investment in Covington for new, affordable housing as part of the city's Urban Redevelopment Plan now totals $30.1 million, according to the chair of the Covington Redevelopment Authority.
Chair Nita Thompson gave an update to the City Council of the progress of the authority since it was created in 2009 to oversee implementation of the city's new Urban Redevelopment Plan.
The majority of the investment has been private, through developers such as Affordable Equity Partners, which invested $9.6 million for a senior housing complex downtown and has announced plans for a similar complex, valued at $9 million, in Walker's Bend. In addition, Affordable Equity and Magita Development are investing $5.7 million in building 32 single-family, detached rental homes with a separate clubhouse and greenspace in Walker's Bend. The homes are currently under construction and will be available to lease in October. Rent will be based on income and units will be available under a lease/purchase agreement, with Magita and AEP owning and maintaining them for a minimum of 15 years.
A multi-use $3 million building called New Leaf Center is being funded through a variety of sources -- federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds, Newton County SPLOST dollars, the Covington Housing Authority -- and will serve as a place for qualified tenants of the Housing Authority to transition before moving into market-rate housing. The center will offer classroom and office space for the city's Housing and Financial Counseling Program, which readies potential homebuyers for home ownership, as well as a job training and life skills counseling program to be run in partnership with the Newton County Ministers' Union, Georgia Department of Labor and Georgia Piedmont Technical College.
The center will also offer small, incubator office and retail spaces at affordable lease rates to start-up businesses and provide a community meeting space for Walker's Bend and surrounding neighborhoods.
To date, the Covington Redevelopment Authority has spent $548,466 of the $579,284 loan from the city, Thompson reported. The majority of the money has been spent on lot acquisition, and some on architectural design, marketing materials and advertising.
The authority has purchased 92 lots from six different banks and the FDIC from 2009 and 2011, through a line of credit loan by the city. Thus far, income from lot sales totals $63,000, and another $410,000 worth of lots is currently under contract, according to Thompson.
Once those lots are sold, 42 authority-owned lots will remain, and could bring in another $400,000 to $500,000, she said.
"The (authority) intends on using the income from these sales to expand the neighborhood redevelopment initiative to other neighborhoods in Covington," she said.
Walker's Bend was originally approved for 240 dwellings in 2003, but five years later the neighborhood was left unfinished when the developer went bankrupt. At that time, 80 dwellings were built, with 40 of those owner-occupied, 38 investor rentals and two real estate owned properties. In addition, there were a total of 134 vacant lots owned by eight different banks and the FDIC and nearly $200,000 in back taxes owed on the vacant lots alone, Thompson said.
In addition to the lots purchased by the authority, 11 units were purchased with Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds and managed by Habitat for Humanity to match the homes and local qualified families.
In addition to the more than $30 million capital investment, the various components of the Walker's Bend project and the Harristown Park senior complex downtown will net the city $628,632 in permits and tap fees, Thompson said.
Thirteen local contractors are being utilized for construction of the Village at Walker's Bend alone, according to her report.