RDC considering City of New Bern, Habitat for Humanity options for Jones Street housing project

Future site of three small houses on Jones Street.
Future site of three small houses on Jones Street.

The New Bern Redevelopment Commission is considering several local options for construction of a planned “affordable housing” development on Jones Street.

At a June 28 special called meeting, the RDC agreed to formally request that the City of New Bern take over the bidding process for a planned affordable housing development on Jones Street. The board also discussed the possibility of bringing Habitat for Humanity of Craven County on board for the project. 

The board unanimously agreed to direct Acting Executive Director Zeb Hough to “iron out the mechanics” of an agreement to handle the construction bidding process with City of New Bern staff and report back to the board at their next meeting.

During the RDC’s regularly scheduled June 14 meeting, Commissioner Beth Walker said the commission’s Housing Work Group had recommended that the administrative duties of the bidding process to hire a construction contractor be handled by city staff. Walker said the Housing Work Group has been putting together specifications for lot development for the houses so that the city can advertise the construction work and bid it out.

The plan calls for the development of three small, two-bedroom homes at 203 and 207 Jones Street, property that was purchased by the RDC in 2021 for $38,000. According to the RDC, the homes will be marketed to low and moderate income families. 

During last week’s meeting, ex-officio RDC member Rick Prill, who serves as New Bern’s Ward 1 alderman, said another option for the project would be holding discussions with Habitat for Humanity of Craven County about handling the construction process. Prill said if Habitat for Humanity were to become involved, the RDC would have to convey the property to the organization so they could build and either sell or rent the houses.

“They have the capabilities of building these small homes on the Jones Street property,” Prill said. “As an option, rather than the city getting involved in bidding out the construction of these small homes, Habitat might be able to do it as well in a much more expedited fashion.”

Prill said getting the city involved “may add a little more complication to the process instead of streamlining it.”

“Whereas talking to Habitat and asking them whether they have the capability of moving forward on this in a fashion, it can’t hurt to ask…They can get it done quicker than the city can.”

RDC Commissioner Julius Parham, who sits on the Habitat for Humanity of Craven County Board of Directors, said he believed it might be a good idea to discuss the plan with Habitat. He said he planned to attend the organization’s June 29 meeting and would share what was discussed with RDC members. 

Parham noted that Habitat has built “six or seven” houses across the street from the planned Jones Street project.

“Right now we’re (RDC) doing maybe three homes a year. We’re hoping to get up to maybe five or six homes a year, and with us trying to move forward I wouldn’t want the Redevelopment Commission to go into partnership with someone that can do it but can’t do it in a timely manner,” Parham said.

Assistant City Attorney Jaimee Bullock-Mosley said generally when the city has conveyed property to Habitat in the past they do so subject to a transfer agreement that sets out a timeframe for them to complete projects.

“If you had some inclination to convey these lots to Habitat or any other nonprofit organization you could do so subject to a transfer of reversion agreement that requires them to begin construction within a certain period of time,” she told the board.

The Jones Street project got off the ground in January, when Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster requested funding to build rental units on the property. After it became clear that the RDC could not rent out property, the commission requested and received $547,000 of American Rescue Plan funds from the city to develop three Jones Street houses that would be put up for sale. 

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.