Finding clean, affordable rental housing can be a difficult proposition in Mount Airy, but could get easier with plans for a new housing complex to add 56 units to the local market.
Only 14.6 percent of the total housing in the city limits was vacant in 2009, the last year for which figures are available, according to a profile prepared by the Northwest Piedmont Council of Governments. And less than half of the 509 vacant units involved were listed as available for rent.
The remainder were unoccupied for other reasons, such as being up for sale or maintained for seasonal use, based on the report from the council. It is a Winston-Salem-based organization that has partnered with Surry and other localities on economic-development and additional issues until merging last Friday into the larger Piedmont Triad Regional Council.
And Mount Airy’s outlook isn’t expected to significantly improve by 2014, when the number of renters in the city is forecast to drop only slightly from the 2009 level. It showed 32.7 percent of the 4,429 occupied housing units in the city were being rented, which is anticipated to decrease to 32.2 percent in three years.
Impact Of New Project
However, the “Edgewood Place” apartment complex planned in the Walmart area could be a step in the right direction, according to Martin Collins, city community development director.
Wynnefield Properties, a Jamestown firm, is planning a $7.4 million project that would add 56 units, both two- and three-bedroom.
“There has not been much in the way of new apartments built in recent years,” Collins said of the shortage in Mount Airy. The lone major exception involved the development of Globe Tobacco Lofts on South Main Street by the Landmark Group.
Collins praised it as an outstanding project that provided new housing while also rehabilitating older historic properties not far from the downtown area. It supplied 43 affordable units.
“But there just has not been any stick-built apartments in a long time,” Collins added.
In the meantime, much of Mount Airy’s existing inventory of rental properties has grown outdated and hard to maintain, with a stagnant economy not helping matters.
“Frankly, there might just not be much of a revenue stream for them to have much of a budget for maintenance,” Collins said of rental-property owners.
The new complex planned for Edgewood Drive would offer brand-new apartments at between $400 and $500 per month. The city’s community development director sees this as beneficial from both a housing and economic-development standpoint.
“That’s what I find promising, particularly for young families, young people who might be returning to the area,” he said of the cheaper rents, which would free up money for expenses such as fuel and groceries.
The new housing also could aid older couples wanting to move to Mount Airy for a slower-paced lifestyle, who might need an apartment while they are transitioning to new jobs or a house, Collins said.
The reason the projected rent can be relatively low — as much as $262 below the average monthly charge in the Triad area as a whole — is due to tax credits being sought for the project.
Wynnefield Properties has applied for $590,264 in credits from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. Meanwhile, the city is seeking $250,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to pay for infrastructure improvements related to the development.
Collins cautioned that the tax credits have yet to be approved, meaning there is a chance the local complex wouldn’t receive the funding this year. The availability of tax credits is a huge factor since it would serve to allow lower rents to be charged in comparison with the open market, which would not be possible otherwise.
Craig Stone, a Wynnefield Properties official, has said that if all goes according to plan, construction could begin around the first of next year at 1476 and 1510 Edgewood Drive. An old house at the site — near the intersection of Park Drive and Carter Street in the vicinity of Walmart — would have to be razed for the construction.
Stone has said plans call for the complex to contain seven buildings, counting a clubhouse. Other amenities would include a fitness center, walking trails and space for residents to raise gardens.
“For me, if we can get this complex, I definitely think it would be a great asset for Mount Airy and Surry County,” Collins said.
Tom Joyce can be reached at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.