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Burnet’s My Town attracts young families, making city more vibrant

JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER

BURNET — A look into Burnet’s future was the motivation behind several entities working together to help families purchase homes.

Since 2014, the My Town project has built 17 homes and brought in almost 40 new residents.

And credit goes to a number of groups, including the Burnet Economic Development Corp., local homebuilders and real estate agents, Mayor Gary Wideman said.

“Pretty much every one (of the homes) has been sold,” Wideman said. “It’s a brilliant program that does so much for a community.”

The concept behind the project was simple. The city of Burnet and Burnet Consolidated Independent School District wanted more families to buy houses. That helps with the local economy because families can set down roots and spend money here on utilities, food, entertainment and taxes.

But what made families pause was the projected costs of homes, which were close to $200,000. So the EDC began examining different parts of the city and saw an opportunity on the southeast side.

The EDC began buying lots at $10,000. Permit fees were waived in order to entice local homebuilders to construct houses. That kept the price of the homes between $135,000 and $155,000, which made it more affordable for families, especially first-time homeowners, Wideman said.

“It gave us the ability to put homes there and attract people to Burnet,” he said, adding this project doesn’t work if the lot prices are in the $25,000-$30,000 range. “We’re not expecting (builders) to build for a loss. From the city’s perspective, if someone goes and buys that house, we’ll get that money back in the long run. There’s an investment in the future.”

And while he is happy for the families who bought the homes to have their own piece of the American dream, he added the project couldn’t have been done without the willingness of many to see the value of a growing and vibrant city.

After all, families have adults who can be part of the local workforce. They also participate in churches, school programs and functions and take advantage of the city’s parks. And all of that adds to the city’s quality of life, which helps lure prospective business owners, the mayor said.

“It’s an interesting position to be in,” he said. “We’ve always attracted the person who is retired. We’re still in the process of trying to attract businesses and youth. We need to make sure we’re full circle.”

Leaders also are examining other types of homes such as duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, Wideman said.

“We’re looking down the road,” he said. “EDC is finding ways to make it as nice as we can. The growth is going to come regardless. That determines how Burnet is looking in the future.”

Meanwhile, the EDC hasn’t found a shortage of builders who want to participate, the mayor added.

“The guys who latched on, they were 100 percent all in,” he said. “They recognize what a great community this is and what an opportunity it was for them as well. They’re begging us to buy more property.”

And that’s what they’ll continue to do, Wideman said, as long as partners and families continue to want the greater good to be served.

“Burnet is my home,” he said. “I consider the entire community to be my home. We want everybody to take a certain sense of ownership. … As long as the interest is there, we’re going to try to keep the project going.”

Wideman will be speaking at the “State of the Community” at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St. A free lunch will be served, and reservations aren’t required. Read more here.

jfierro@thepicayune.com