$98,000 Affordable Housing Grant Paves Way for New Subdivision in Rural Alabama

Calera, Ala.--With a $98,000 grant through BancorpSouth and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, plans for a 30-residence affordable-housing development are back on track.

Calera, Ala.–In Alabama, officials and many a resident in the city of Calera saw their hopes for a new affordable housing subdivision dashed when consequences of the nationwide financial crisis brought the development of Shiloh Creek to a halt. But the tide has recently turned for the project. Greater Birmingham Habitat for Humanity is now at the helm, and with a new $98,000 Affordable Housing Program grant through BancorpSouth and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, plans for the 30-residence development are back on track.

The term “affordable housing” may be a bit misleading when it comes to the Shiloh Creek project. “It’s about a price point; it’s not subsidized housing,” Connie Payton, Calera’s city clerk, tells MHN. The applicants interested in the Shiloh Creek homes are obligated to go through a qualification process. Birmingham Habitat, as is the case with its nonprofit parent entity Habitat for Humanity International, seeks to eradicate sub-standard housing for the income-challenged by building and rehabilitating homes. For-sale homes are made available to needy families and are financed with affordable loans.

BancorpSouth supports the concept fervently. “Our goal is to provide assistance to build these homes so families can have an affordable place to live,” Buffy Murphy, assistant vice president of community affairs and compliance with BancorpSouth, tells MHN. “These households meet the criteria of what the government would consider to be low- to moderate-income households. These are teachers. These are single parents. These are households that have jobs. We’re just helping put affordability back into the community.”

With the AHP grant in hand, Birmingham Habitat will be able to bring Shiloh Creek to fruition, thereby making the American dream of homeownership possible for qualifying applicants among the 10,000 individuals in the rural city of Calera, which sits 30 miles south of Birmingham in Shelby County. Having acquired the foreclosed-upon development, Birmingham Habitat will complete the three homes that were in the midst of construction under the previous developer and commence the building of new homes on the approximately 30 lots that have already been cleared for construction.

It is likely that the long-awaited Shiloh Creek will not be the last of the new affordable subdivisions in Calera. The town is rising in popularity. “Five to seven years ago, Calera was really rural, now it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the state of Alabama,” Murphy says. Located off I-65, Calera is about 60 miles north of Montgomery, the state capital. “We have a lot to offer,” Payton notes. “You can get away from the traffic of the bigger cities. We’re getting new parks. We have a new school, and another one will open in fall 2012, so that’s a good draw. There’s a lot of room to grow here in Calera, but you get that small-town feel.” And, as Mike Wood, Calera city building official explains, “A lot of it has to do with price ranges. Our sister cities north of us are way higher. You get more for your money here.”

Signature Homes is also responding to the call for economical housing in Calera with its new Enclave community, featuring homes starting at $99,000. “It’s tied to the economy,” Wood adds. “Homes between $99,000 and 130,000 are what’s selling.” The Enclave is not a subdivision, but like Shiloh Creek, it offers homes that are in line with the affordable-housing price point in Calera.

“We all want nice homes,” Murphy points out. “You don’t have to be rich to want that.” Birmingham Habitat will commence construction activity at Shiloh Creek in June.

While eager to help facilitate homeownership at an affordable level, BancorpSouth is not oblivious to the numerous households that are not in the position to buy lower-priced homes like the ones Birmingham Habitat will build in Calera. BancorpSouth participates in the Alabama Multifamily Loan Consortium, an organization that works with the Alabama Housing Finance Authority to provide funds for the development of affordable rental housing for low- to moderate-income households across the state.