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Burnet EDC cultivating city middle-income housing initiative

A new home in the 700 block of Pierce Street in Burnet is among about a dozen lots purchased by the Burnet Economic Development Corp. for the My Town initiative, which works with the private housing industry to create more middle-income housing in the community. Courtesy photo


BURNET — Since Ryan Smith moved into a new house in the 700 block of Pierce Street in June, he has taken his time with the finishing touches.

“Now I’m just working on getting everything set up,” he said. “Getting everything ready to turn it from a place to live into a home.”

Smith, who works for mortgage company Southwest Funding in Burnet, is one of several people who are part of a private-public housing expansion project known as the My Town Initiative.

Started about a year ago, the program involves the cooperation of the Burnet Economic Development Corp., the city of Burnet, private builders, real estate agents, mortgage companies and potential buyers.

To launch the program, the EDC purchases, clears and sells lots, while city officials waive building permits and impact fees for builders.

Real estate agents reduce service fees by as much as 2 percent, and builders work with investors to create home deals.

Lots worth $25,000 coax investors by reducing the asking price to $10,000-$15,000.

Site-built homes range from $130,000 to $150,000.

“A lot of towns look at economic development and say, ‘I want commercial, industrial,’ but we thought really what does economic development mean for Burnet?” Burnet City Manager David Vaughn said. “We thought what can we do to jumpstart construction?”

The first site groundbreaking occurred in the summer of 2014.

“We quite frankly had a difficult time trying to convince builders to take the risk. It was a significant risk in trying to build in an area where historically builders would not go,” Vaughn said. “The first house was finished in about a couple of months, and then about December, we acquired some other lots on the east side of town. Then, it absolutely just took off after that.”

EDC budgeted about $120,000 to buy and clear lots for the first year of the program with about a dozen lots involved so far.

To sow the seeds for the program, EDC purchased six lots, primarily in the southeast section of town.

In July 2014, Langley Builders Inc. launched construction on the first home, a 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath structure with two carports.

Of the dozen projects so far, the latest involves crews preparing two new sites for homes on East Live Oak.

In his own house-hunting experience, Smith nearly missed the opportunity to participate in the program when he looked outside of the city to find a home to fit his needs.

“I needed to move back to Burnet to move closer to work. I was looking in Liberty Hill, Bertram, etcetera, because there’s a lot more houses on the ground there,” he said. “My experience, being that I do work in the industry, was probably easier than most because I’ve already done some of these loans for other people.

“I knew it was a good program, so I was thrilled to buy my house through it,” he added.

Nine homes have sold so far.

“Could not be happier with where the program is going at this point,” Vaughn said. “I have to give all the credit to the partnership that was created with our partners in the program, being several banks, builders, (real estate professionals) and other building industry professionals.”

New homeowners see the program as one that improves quality of life and communities.

“A lot of the smaller towns need some new housing in them, so it’s a good thing all the way around,” Smith said. “This is filling a gap for middle-income homes, getting into something for their family that’s more functional.”