The Special Committee on Housing has agreed to submit a series of incentive recommendations to the Rome City and Floyd County commissions to help jump start new housing construction.

Members of the panel wondered, though, if the target price range for “affordable workforce housing” might not be consumed by rising costs in the construction industry.

Early during the committee’s deliberations, they agreed that $250,000 would be the cap for a single family home to be eligible for incentives. The target for rental properties was set at no more than $1,200 per month.

One of the developers on the committee, Chris Forino, is seeking to construct homes on South Broad Street. He said he could not build an infill home and rent it out for as little as $1,200 a month.

Speaking specifically to the astronomical increase in building materials, real estate appraiser Harry Brock said that if some projects don’t get done quickly, “depending on inflation, we’re going to blow right past this $1,200.”

Another developer, Walt Busby, said the $1,200 benchmark leaves little profit margin for a high density project he’s planning on Old Summerville Road. The 30-plus units he’s looking at building are in the range of 875 square feet.

Key among the incentives in virtually every category of residential construction is a waiver of water and sewer tap fees. Another part of the package calls for minimal purchase or lease prices for properties that are owned by the city or county. The panel also agreed to recommend cash rebates ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 per unit, based on the number of homes being built.

The committee reviewed potential incentive packages Monday for several housing options: Infill housing on vacant properties within a community; cottage or cluster homes, where multiple smaller homes are constructed on smaller lots; traditional apartment developments and new subdivisions.

City Commissioner Wendy Davis, who chairs the committee, suggested they might fund the incentives from the city’s $11.5 million American Rescue Plan allocation — the latest COVID-19 relief payment from the Biden administration.

“But we don’t know all of the strings that are attached yet,” Davis cautioned her committee.

Community Development Director Bekki Fox said her understanding is that use of the ARP for housing would be limited to five of the city’s less developed Census tracts. Three of those tracts do extend out into unincorporated areas of Floyd County.

“I think we need to do a detailed cost-benefit analysis for all of this,” said County Commissioner Allison Watters.

One member of the committee asked how long the incentive package might be in effect. Davis said it would be for the short term, to get housing construction started to meet existing needs.

The immediate need, as estimated by Brock, is for between 1,100 and 1,200 new homes.

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