Housing Authority looking to branch out

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The Roxboro Housing Authority is positioning itself to become a player in the real estate development market.

The agency is creating its own non-profit, called the Roxboro Community Redevelopment Corporation, to allow it to expand opportunities to create additional affordable housing stock.

On Wednesday, the board of commissioners of the Roxboro Housing Authority adopted a set of by-laws and elected officers for the new corporation. Board members of the RCRC, as it will be called, are also members of the Roxboro Housing Authority board of commissioners.

Roxboro Housing Authority executive director Felts Lewis said the goal is to help improve the community.

“We hope the RCRC will have a positive impact for Roxboro,” Lewis said.

The concept is not new for North Carolina Housing Authorities, but it’s not widely used. To date, only large housing authorities have really been able to participate in the real estate game in their communities.

The RCRC would work this way: As a non-profit organization it would be eligible to apply for loans from the government, from private sources or for tax credits that the Housing Authority is prohibited from dealing with.

The RCRC could buy distressed properties in and around Roxboro, renovate them and then rent them or sell them outright. The group could also create new or additional housing stock on property it already owns or it could buy land to build a new apartment community.

The new non-profit would participate in a program through the Federal Housing and Urban Development agency called Rental Assistance Demonstration that would give the non-profit – and by extension the Roxboro Housing Authority – the ability to leverage existing housing stock develop new housing.

The housing authority’s entrance into the world of redevelopment comes at a good time for the city of Roxboro, which is in the midst of a lengthy effort to get owners of derelict properties to make improvements to them or face having the city take ownership of the property.

In many of those cases, the process for getting the properties improved or demolishing them is a lengthy one because town officials want to avoid taking private property. If the new RCRC can provide assistance in reclaiming those properties it would relieve the city of a duty it doesn’t want.

The Roxboro Housing Authority also owns undeveloped land of its own. RHA owns about four acres of land adjacent to the Harris Gardens apartments that could serve as the site of an expansion if the RCRC were to pursue that option.

Lewis said that while many opportunities would present themselves to the new RCRC, he wants the leadership of the organization to have an idea of what it wants to accomplish before the group makes any commitments.

“I want to make sure the RCRC has a clear, definite goal. I hope we’ll be able to do that soon,” Lewis said. On Wednesday, he asked the board of commissioners to consider setting a date for a planning retreat that would give the organization a chance to work out some of those plans.

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