A special Committee on Housing in Rome will meet Wednesday to develop an implementation plan for the new construction incentives approved by the City Commission earlier this month.
Commissioner Wendy Davis heads that panel, which includes builders, real estate agents and others in the housing industry.
“We have to have a process for people to apply and we’ve got to talk about what the details are,” Davis said. “Hopefully the city manager has some steps to start getting us down the road ... so people can start getting houses built.”
The incentive package eliminates water and sewer tap fees for new homes that will sell for $250,000 or less. Those fees also will be waived for rental units where the monthly payment is $1,200 or less.
Builders can also qualify for reimbursement of expenses related to water and sewer infrastructure. The starting point is up to $2,500 for a single-family home built on an infill lot in the city. Infill refers to the use of spaces left after an area has been developed. In Rome it’s often a lot where a dilapidated or abandoned structure has been demolished.
A reimbursement of up to $3,500 per unit is approved for cluster or cottage home developments of between one and six houses. A cluster of between seven and 12 homes would qualify for reimbursement up to $4,000 per unit.
Apartments or townhouse style developments would qualify for up to $3,400 per unit in reimbursement and a developer could get up to $6,000 per house for subdivisions with a minimum of 25 homes.
The funding for the reimbursements will come out of a $1 million earmark in the city’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation of more than $11 million. At this point, no one knows exactly how far that $1 million might go.
However, it’s still unclear if the federal money can be spent that way. Mayor Craig McDaniel said he has some concern that use of the funds may be limited to bolstering low-income census tracts.
“There’s just not a substantial margin in those areas for builders,” McDaniel said. “If we do have some latitude (over where the funds can be used), then I think we’ll see a lot of interest.”
Davis said there is no question in her mind that ARPA funds can be used for water and sewer work. The cost of that infrastructure has repeatedly been cited by builders as an impediment to new construction.
“The success of this initial project will determine if there are future projects in this avenue,” Davis said. “I expect it will be very successful and I expect there are other pieces that we haven’t really dug in and talked about yet.”
The “other pieces” could involve down payment assistance programs for buyers, loans or grants for people who are making less than 120% of the median household income, and incentives to rehabilitate existing housing in less affluent census tracts.
The committee meets at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Sam King Room at City Hall, 601 Broad St.