Open house Sunday for affordable homes

CHAMPAIGN – Families looking for affordable new home construction can take their first look inside the new Taylor Thomas Subdivision in Champaign this weekend.

An open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the first house completed in the subdivision, a four-bedroom, two-story house at 408 Taylor Thomas Lane.

The Taylor Thomas Subdivision and Taylor Thomas Lane are located off the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Bradley Avenue, where Mansard Square Apartments used to be.

The subdivision, to include 15 new houses in all, is the result of a private and public partnership established to offer home ownership opportunities to families that otherwise couldn't afford them, said the developer, Jeff Smith, president of Castleford Group.

The house open to the public Sunday is a 1,400-square-foot, two-story home with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage.

It would sell for about $130,500 – if the buyer pays full market price.

But buyers of most of the houses will wind up paying much lower-than-market prices based on their incomes and family sizes, thanks to grants and other kinds of financial assistance from the city of Champaign, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Smith said.

The houses will be available in six different ranch and two-story styles, and will range from about 1,100 to 1,800 square feet, Smith said. Prices will range from about $115,500 to $139,800.

The houses are being built on crawl spaces, and all will have either three or four bedrooms, two or two-and-a-half bathrooms, front porches and two-car garages.

The houses will also come landscaped and with all the appliances included – even washers and dryers, Smith said. Buyers will also get allowances for their window treatments and a home alarm system, he said.

Smith said the houses will also meet the city's "visitability" standards, meaning there is a no-step entrance and other features that make the first floor of the house accessible to a person with disabilities. Fully accessible homes are also available, he said.

Helping keep the prices down is the fact that Castleford is using manufactured housing as opposed to stick-building at the site. Another cost-saving factor is that the lots, carved out of a former public housing site, are being passed along to the home-buyers free of charge, Smith said.

Buyers will be required to make down-payments of $500 to $1,000 and will need to be creditworthy. But family size and income will make all the difference when it comes to how much the houses will cost.

Families earning above 80 percent of the median Champaign County family income will pay full market price, Smith said.

Those earning below that mark will pay on a declining scale, with $30,000 of the price written off for those earning between 71 and 80 percent of the median county income, all the way down to $70,000 written off for those earning half or less of the median county income.

Take for example the median income for a family of four, which is $59,600: Smith said a family of four earning $44,700 could purchase a house in the Taylor Thomas Subdivision for $129,400 with a $1,000 down payment, and $29,000 of the purchase price would be written off in the form of a forgivable loan.

Through financing arranged with Busey Bank, that same family would also qualify for a first mortgage at 6 percent interest on $79,400 of the total and a second mortgage interest-free on the remaining $20,000.

The monthly payment, with principle, interest, taxes and insurance, would be about $829, Smith said.

"What we're really trying to do with all this is make it affordable," he added.

The Urban League of Champaign County and Busey Bank are also partners in the subdivision launch, with Busey reserving funds for the Taylor Thomas home buyers and the Urban League handling all the marketing with prospective buyers, Smith said.

Prospective buyers should contact Jean Algee at the Urban League to discuss their qualifications and credit, and then contact David Gillon, senior vice president at Busey Bank, to apply for their loan, Smith said. They would then meet with both the Urban League and Castleford Group to choose a lot, home style and various options they'll have in the construction.

Castleford Group will build each home, with a goal to have all of them finished by the end of next year, Smith said.

Prospective buyers also must attend a home ownership training course sponsored by the Urban League and a home maintenance course given by the city.

You can reach Debra Pressey at (217) 351-5229 or via e-mail at dpressey@news-gazette.com.

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