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'We needed housing' | Hickory seeking solutions to housing crisis

“I think it's really nice for the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t mind selling my place and moving in myself," 30-year Hickory resident James Walton said.

HICKORY, N.C. — More affordable housing is on its way to Hickory. 

The city of Hickory partnered with JRN Development to create unique homes to make sure everyone has a place to live.

“We need to be a community that offers an opportunity for people of all walks of life," city of Hickory community development manager Karen Dickerson said. 

About two years ago, the city used its tools to build two new homes. 

The first two homes were built under the Hickory Affordable Housing Initiative. Through that, the city partnered with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments' Unifour HOME Consortium to use $300,000 of federal funds to construct two affordable houses on vacant, city-owned property. 

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HOME, which is short for HOME Investment Partnership Program, is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households.

The city paid $153,192 to construct the house at 335 8th Ave. Dr. SW and $159,450 for 932 3rd St. Pl. SW. The homes were then sold to eligible buyers at their appraised value. The city returned the money received from the sales of the homes to the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

"We needed housing; we needed housing at that lower-income spectrum, so the city decided we would build houses, so we took that on ourselves and then, we realized we wanted to do more of it, and the best way to do that was to try to form a partnership with a company that could build faster and more at one time," Dickerson said.

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Saving money and time was a big reason Hickory decided to partner with JRN Development and OFFSITEK, a Charlotte-based company that uses robots and 3D printing to redesign homebuilding. 

“There are currently six houses under construction," Dickerson said. 

For the current set of homes being constructed, the city partnered with JRN Development for development and construction. JRN purchased the six vacant lots from the city and paid $3,000 per lot. As JRN is constructing the homes, the city does not know the exact construction costs. JRN plans to sell the homes without garages for $155,000 and the homes with garages for $166,000. As with the first set of homes, these will also be sold to households making less than 80% of the area median income, which is around $48,250 for a family of four.

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Among the new construction, there are still older houses. 

“I've lived in Hickory for about 30 years," Hickory resident James Walton said. 

Walton told WCNC Charlotte his home was a reasonable price and welcomes the change.

“I think it's really nice for the neighborhood, and I wouldn’t mind selling my place and moving in myself," Walton said. 

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The city also has several maintenance programs to help hickory homeowners.

The housing rehabilitation loan program provides loans of up to $25,000 to homeowners whose household income does not exceed 80% of the area median income. Funds can be used to bring housing units up to the city’s minimum housing code, and for accessibility improvements necessary for residents with disabilities. Examples of eligible repairs include heat system replacement, window replacement, plumbing repairs, repairs of electrical wiring and roof repairs.

The Urgent Repair Program provides forgivable loans to homeowners of up to $10,000 to households with special needs whose income does not exceed 50% of the statewide median income. These funds may be used for urgent repairs or accessibility improvements that are required to avert the displacement of the homeowners. 

“Homeownership is a path to building wealth and that is something that if people have the opportunity to do, they should," Dickerson said. "I believe that there are a lot of people who don't believe that they can, but there are options out there." 

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions producing I Can’t Afford to Live Here, a collaborative reporting project focused on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.  

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.  


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