The Rome Housing Committee plans to recommend to the Rome City Commission to include North Rome as a local designated census tract for their housing incentive plan.

According to Community Development Director Bekki Fox, the American Rescue Plan Act interim rules state that an affordable housing development has to be in locally qualified census tracts or locally designated tracts where individuals were predominantly impacted by COVID-19.

Qualifying is based on income data from the 2020 Census. Currently the city’s qualified tracts include portions of South Rome and East Rome.

“As far as the city of Rome goes, the areas that we work the most in are already highlighted. The only tract that’s not highlighted is Tract 6, which is North Rome, and I think that’s because of a couple of neighborhoods that skew the income ratio,” Fox said. “It’s all going to be based on how many folks live at or below 80% the median area income.”

Since the area meets U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations, the tract could be marked as a locally designated census tract.

The city has earmarked $1 million from its ARPA grant for the incentives, aimed at boosting the stock of affordable housing. However, until the final rules are released, it’s still unclear what properties will qualify for use of the federal funds.

Committee members plan to use this $1 million to reimburse developers for water and sewer infrastructure costs for developments inside these locally designated tracts, as well as extensions within the census tracts.

The incentive program would be done on a first come, first serve basis for developers. The water and sewer assets would ultimately be dedicated to the city of Rome’s systems.

Only homes sold for $250,000 or less, or rented at no more than $1,200 a month, are eligible. Reimbursements range from $2,500 up to $6,000 per unit, depending on the project.

The city is still waiting on more federal guidance on how they can use the ARPA money for housing incentives and where they can invest.

However, City Commissioner Wendy Davis, who chairs the committee, suggested moving money from the Rome water and sewer enterprise account to cover the incentive program. The account currently has a $18.2 million reserve fund.

Here is a specific breakdown of those reserves:

  • Operating reserve, 3 months  required per the American Water Works Association minimum $5,597,919
  • Debt Service reserve, 3 months $1,504,302
  • Capital reserve (water) $1,066,326
  • Capital reserve (sewer) $1,599,490
  • Regulatory reserve (water) $3,404,000
  • Regulatory reserve (sewer) $5,106,000

If that happens, any development in the city could qualify for the housing assistance program, according to City Public Information Officer Doug Walker.

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