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County looks at creating affordable housing

November 09, 2005|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

More pre-built homes could be showing up in Washington County in an effort to make housing more affordable for those who work here.

The Washington County Workforce Housing Task Force last month recommended that the County Commissioners allow manufactured housing in more parts of the county.

The recommendation was one of 17 by the task force, which has stated that rising housing costs are greatly outpacing salary increases of those who work in Washington County. That makes it hard for the working class to find homes here, the group said.

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The Zoning Ordinance currently allows manufactured homes - houses built in factories - only in agricultural areas.

The County Commissioners on Tuesday said they'll ask county planning officials to come up with a definition of manufactured housing and to create design standards for the pre-built homes.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the uses of manufactured housing, including where they'll be placed, also should be looked at to provide for a balance of such houses in the county.

"I don't want to be like West Virginia," Kercheval said.

The task force describes manufactured homes as "built entirely in factories under controlled conditions and are inspected during construction and before shipment by an independent third-party inspector certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)."

The average sales price of a 1,595 square-foot manufactured home nationally was $51,300 in 2002. The average sales price of a single-family home, including the cost of land, was $228,600 nationally that same year, according to information included in the report.

"Cost is the Workforce Housing connection to Manufactured Housing," the task force's report states.

The commissioners also want to look into creating local programs that would provide tax credits for certain homeowners and lower closing costs.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook suggested using the $2 million the commissioners set aside for tax rebates to possibly go toward work-force housing programs.

The commissioners plan to review all 17 recommendations made by the Workforce Housing Task Force. Tuesday's meeting was the first of several in which the commissioners anticipate discussing the recommendations.

Washington County's median-priced home in September was $240,000, while the median income for a family of four in the county was $56,250. In order to afford a median-priced home, a family would have to earn $67,416, the report stated.

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