City council to weigh Habitat for Humanity request


April 4, 2010 at 11 p.m.
Updated April 3, 2010 at 11:04 p.m.

A nonprofit group hopes to capitalize on a semi-successful city of Victoria program designed to help low-income Victoria residents become first-time homeowners.

The Habitat for Humanity Victoria chapter has requested eight lots in the city-owned Swan Crossing and $60,000 in federal funds to assist with building such things as sidewalks.

The city council will receive the request at its Tuesday meeting in the Council Chamber at 5 p.m. Cynthia Staley, Habitat for Humanity executive director, said she's excited by the prospect of getting the vacant lots.

"Oh my gosh, it would be invaluable," she said. "To have contiguous lots on property that has already been developed is always a blessing."

Swan Crossing is a 55-lot, 12-acre subdivision for single-family housing at the northwest corner of Delmar Drive and Hanselman Road.

Completed in 2006, the mixed-income neighborhood was intended to have a minimum of 38 homes to be sold to income-qualified home buyers, and the remaining 17 homes to home buyers above the median income level.

Four years later, the subdivision has five houses. Four were purchased and one is still owned by the builder and is rented.

Council Member Paul Polasek suggested the city meet with Habitat for Humanity to see if the two could work out a deal. Polasek was unavailable for comment, but staff will ask the council for a consensus on how to handle the request.

At one point, more than 100 people were interested in the housing project. John Kaminski, the city's director of Development Services, said there's probably no single cause for the lack of building in the subdivision.

"The development was completed right about the time housing starts slowed down," he said. "At the same time, the mortgage lending department was really tightening up."

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development restrictions also made it difficult for some lower-income people to afford the housing, he said.

"We have no problem with this proposal," Kaminski said. "It's a request that came out of an earlier work session when we were working on a five-year plan for Community Development Block Grant funds."



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