News release from the City of Fort Wayne, sent Monday:
Mayor champions ground breaking of 66-lease-to-own homes in Renaissance Pointe
(September 19, 2011) – Mayor Tom Henry today joined developer Kevan Biggs and community partners in celebrating the ground breaking of a home ownership initiative in the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood.
“It is certainly a compliment to our city that Biggs TC Development has made the commitment to invest in the Renaissance Pointe neighborhood,” Mayor Henry said. “I am a firm believer that building strong communities means strengthening neighborhoods.”
The $11.6 million initiative, by Biggs TC Development, calls for construction of 66 lease-to-own homes on vacant lots along John Street, Gay Street and Weisser Park. Beginning this week, Biggs TC will start construction on two houses each week, until they reach their goal of 66. The City intends to invest approximately $1.2M in the project in a combination of Neighborhood Stabilization Program loan funds and U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development funds.
Construction will take place on vacant lots owned by the city and Biggs TC. The public-private partnership development will be completed within 12 months.
“One of the best ways to strengthen a neighborhood is to enhance its sense of place by offering a range of housing options that are available to a range of incomes,” Mayor Henry said. “This can allow existing residents to age in place, while making it more accessible to those working families who can choose to live anywhere, but want to make this neighborhood home.”
The development will include brand new houses with an average value of between $125,000 and $140,000. The houses will be three- and four-bedroom homes with front porches and attached garages. The houses will be ranch, 1 Â½-story and 2-story homes with more than five different floor plans.
The unique lease-to-own program will serve as a home ownership incubator, which guarantees that, 15 years after the residents move in, the tenant living in each of the 66 homes will have the opportunity to own the home where they live. This means that the resident leasing and living in the house when the 15-year clock expires will have the first right of purchase to that particular house. As an investor in this development, the City will engage in a long-term relationship with the development project. The City’s Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services will conduct annual property inspections and reviews of financial statements and rent data related to the project for at least 20 years.
Biggs TC is a local developer that has been involved with Renaissance Pointe neighborhood since its inception. The company has a commitment to making home ownership possible for families who have struggled in the traditional lending environment in the past.
“Today signifies another important milestone in the revitalization of this community,” Kevan Biggs said. “I have been personally committed to seeing progress in Renaissance Pointe and today with the full support of Mayor Henry, the city and this community, we begin the construction of 66 homes providing housing and much needed jobs for many.”
Biggs is working with community agencies to ensure a strong tenant selection process and to offer ongoing training and education to tenants to prepare them for home ownership.
The developer will also work with community partners to identify neighborhood residents to work on the project, under the Section 3 program. Section 3 is a federal designation of individuals by income and place of residence. Contractors and sub-contractors agree to use local, low-income residents, to the degree feasible, when filling open positions within this job.
On Aug. 31, the Biggs TC Development team and the City co-hosted a meeting that introduced non-profit employment development agencies, such as Wayne Township Trustee’s Office, Fort Wayne Urban League, Blue Jacket and others, to engage in discussions about how job opportunities created through this project might be matched with local low-income residents with the proper skills for the job.
Mayor Henry heralded the development as one could act as a catalyst for more investment in the near-downtown neighborhood.
Mayor Henry and Biggs thanked the stakeholders of the Renaissance Pointe community for their dedication and support of the development. Biggs noted that the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, City Real Estate Advisors and Tower Bank provided the support that helped to make the initiative possible.