A group pushing for more affordable workforce housing wants to build some in Riceboro and Midway.
Local leaders and officials heard a Georgia Initiative for Community Housing update from the Liberty Initiative for Community Housing committee at the county-wide workshop review breakfast in December at the Performing Arts Center.
Bob Sprinkel, assistant county administrator and LICH member said workforce housing was identified as a huge need in Liberty County — especially on the east end. Sprinkel said several large employers were invited to a meeting with the committee to talk about housing.
“Unfortunately only one came — Chemtall SNF,” Sprinkel said. “He informed us there were two main reasons they lost employees. When they came to leave, it wasn’t the amount of work or pay, it was the distance they were traveling, or when they lived nearby, the lack of amenities like Kroger or a community store like Wal-Mart.”
Sprinkel said LICH will survey Chemtall’s 1,200 employees and talk to members of the Liberty County Manufacturing Collaboration and possibly do a survey among those employees as well on housing and retail sales, Sprinkel said.
The Manufacturing Collaboration includes Elan Technology, Alcoa, Interstate Resources and Chemtall SNF. It is in a partnership with the Liberty College and Career Academy and Savannah Technical College to provide eight paid apprenticeships to local high school seniors.
After gathering their findings, the committee will approach developers about workforce housing and use tax credits to bring housing into the Midway-Riceboro area for employees.
“Do you imagine what that would do to the stimulus down in that area? I’m very excited,” Sprinkel said.
Affordable housing for workers isn’t the only issue LICH is involved with. This year, the group will identify areas and dilapidated houses for listing in a grant application for Community Development Block Grant program funds in 2018 for a complete county-wide cleanup.
The grant would be approximately $300,000.
“This would include all the municipalities and the county. We would go in and clean up as many blighted properties as we could possibly do, concentrated on the gateways, clean up those areas and do the best that we possibly can,” Sprinkel said.
He pointed out Riceboro’s “very vibrant blight program.”
He said the city uses community development funds to clear the property, with the property owner paying 10 percent toward the cleanup. He then gave updates on some of the other cities’ activities.
Sprinkel believes the construction of Live Oak Villas in Midway behind the post office on Butler Street will be a model tax credit program.
Work on the new housing development started Nov. 4 and may be complete by next fall, according to Sprinkel.
Live Oak Villas will have 60 units - 26 one-bedroom apartments and 34 two-bedroom apartments. They will range in size from 750 square feet up to 1,050 square feet and cost from $507 to $750 a month to rent.
“It will be inclusive of the utility allowances, 17 acres total, low-income housing, tax credit project, and preference for veterans. It’s really great,” Sprinkel said.
He also mentioned Midway’s efforts to identify and remove dilapidated housing.
Hinesville completed several projects, such as Renaissance Park with 42 units, Liberty Place Apartments with 72 units and townhome units off Rebecca Street.
In 2017, Hinesville will continue with construction of two single-family dwellings on Azalea Street, providing homeless prevention services and will host a symposium in April for Fair Housing Month.
Walthourville police officers are reporting blight properties while on duty and recently cleared a trailer park with broken-down trailers in preparation for home constructions.
The LICH committee is planning a series of mini-housing summits on various topics such as an heir’s property workshop around April, money management and credit counseling and home inspections.
GICH is a three year program and will end between 2017 and 2018 unless it is joined with another established organization, Sprinkel said.
If GICH remains, the committee can award points for projects to entities applying for state and federal grants, he said.