Nearly 70 Cabarrus County families will have a place to call home because of the efforts of a local nonprofit working with local governments to secure land for future home construction.
Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County is expected to soon receive ownership of about 38 acres of county-owned land to build 60 to 70 energy-efficient houses off Warren C. Coleman Boulevard and Cabarrus Avenue in Concord.
The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners in November authorized the county manager to transfer the land from the county to Habitat Cabarrus as soon as Concord officials approved the rezoning of the property and Habitat Cabarrus had a land survey done.
Concord City Council members voted to rezone the property from office space to residential zoning at the council's April 8 meeting.
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Acquisition of the land will likely come as Habitat Cabarrus celebrates its 20th anniversary this spring, marked by the construction of the first Habitat house in Cabarrus County in 1990.
Habitat Cabarrus, which builds homes and sells them to families at no profit and financed with affordable loans, has built nearly 120 homes in Cabarrus County. The nonprofit has more than 10 families on its waiting list.
"The reason Habitat exists is that there's such a need for affordable housing," said Liz Poole, vice chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners. "It's a great organization."
County Manager John Day said it was unlikely the county would have used the property, which has been owned by the county for many years. He said the county will probably sell the property to Habitat Cabarrus for $1, a common price set for property given to nonprofits.
Dean Johnson, executive director of Habitat Cabarrus, described the property as "terrain-challenged." Steep drop-offs would require extensive leveling for development, he said. But the location is near a bus stop - and it's practically free, he said.
The project's expected cost is $5 million to $6 million, Johnson said, noting that because Habitat houses are appraised at more than $120,000, about $8 million will be added to the local tax base once all the homes are completed.
Since 2006, Habitat has been building homes in Magnolia Crossing, a subdivision of Habitat homes in Concord. About 20 homes line the neighborhood's streets off Winecoff Avenue between Central Drive and Harris Street.
Once the property is acquired, Habitat Cabarrus will turn to fundraising efforts and grants. Johnson said he hopes to raise enough money to begin grading and building roads through the property by next spring. Home construction is expected to begin within 12 to 18 months.
"The biggest thing holding us back is money," Johnson said.
The yet unnamed neighborhood, which will contain one- and two-story homes on 0.2 acre plots, will be designed as an energy-efficient community, Johnson said. About 80 percent of the land will stay in its natural state, and Habitat Cabarrus will use guidelines set by the National Association of Homebuilders, which uses a point system to score homes' level of energy-efficiency based on elements such as fans to circulate air, proper insulation to conserve power and the use of recyclable materials.
Details such as the orientation of the houses based on the location of the sun and the means to retain stormwater will be considered. Volunteer builders will also install low-flow faucets and energy-efficient water heaters, measures being used in Magnolia Crossing.
The green standards keep energy costs low, which in turn will free up more of the homeowners' discretionary income, said Bill Smith, a construction and land development manager for Habitat Cabarrus.
"With Habitat houses, we have to be good stewards of the donated dollar," Johnson said.