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DABC lands $2.44M Workforce Housing Grant for infrastructure aid to subdivision developers
Cornerstone Pointe
Located off Highway 67 about three miles west of Interstate 16, the Cornerstone Pointe subdivision, shown above outlined in blue at the top of the map, will receive $2.44 million approved as a Rural Workforce Housing Grant to the Development Authority of Bulloch County for road and drainage work that will help a private development company build a subdivision with 79 single-family homes.

The state of Georgia, through its Department of Community Affairs, has approved a $2.44 million Rural Workforce Housing Grant to the Development Authority of Bulloch County for road and drainage work that will help a private development company build a subdivision with 79 single-family homes.

It was one of five such grants – the other four being to the cities of Blackshear, Gainesville, Reidsville and Sylvester – included in Gov.  Brian Kemp’s announcement this week of the fourth round of Rural Workforce Housing Initiative awards. The five grants total more than $10.3 million and will support the construction of nearly 312 housing units.

Cornerstone Pointe, as the planned Bulloch County subdivision is called, would occupy an almost 78-acre tract in the currently rural, southeastern part of the county. That land, owned by VALNOC LLC, also the developer of the project, narrows to a point where unpaved Anderson Cemetery Road intersects Georgia Highway 67. Clifton Road borders the wider portion of the tract to the west.

This area, a little north of Interstate 16, is in the section of Bulloch County nearest to where Hyundai Motor Group’s Metaplant America, expected to eventually employ 8,500 people, is under construction in northern Bryan County. Southern Bulloch is also where three component suppliers to Hyundai as well as two non-Hyundai-related industries are currently building plants, together expected to create another 1,600 jobs.

But the Workforce Housing Grant-awarded project is not promised to supply housing for any one industry or combination of industries, said Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, or DABC.

“This is residential development that is now being targeted where the price matches up better with the people who are going to see this new job creation in the region,” he said. “It’s to try to help maintain a price point where people who have normal jobs can afford a house.”


Limits house prices

This grant reportedly comes with a commitment from the developers to keep the price of the homes below a certain limit.

“With the industrial growth, along with all the rest of the growth we’ve had in Bulloch County, Statesboro and the region, we need more housing for sure, and we need more affordable housing for sure, so the program is set up to help keep those projects as reasonable as  we can, one project at the time, and because they’re being supported by the grant, they’re required to keep prices at a certain level,” Thompson said.

He wasn’t sure of the expected price limit, which he said may have changed, subject to new information yet to come from the Department of Community Affairs, or DCA.

A price range of $125,000 to $290,000 per home was indicated in the lead-up to the grant application, according to Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.

The OneGeorgia Authority, an arm of the DCA, is authorized to supply the grant amount of $2,437,520 to the Development Authority of Bulloch County. But the state announcement gives a total projected price tag of $3,108,620 for the road and drainage approvements and states that Bulloch County and “the development partner,” meaning VALNOC LLC, are expected to cover the remainder of that cost.

That remainder is $671,100.


County’s $250K share

A March 5 letter signed by Chairman Roy Thompson of the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners to the OneGeorgia Authority in support of the grant application stated that the commissioners would “commit $250,000 to grade and pave Anderson Cemetery Road between Highway 67 and Clifton Road.”

Phoned Thursday, Couch noted that $250,000 was a 10% share of a $2.5 million total sought grant amount. But he said the letter was part of the pre-application process and that he never expected the DABC to be able to move forward with a final application and be awarded a grant this soon or in the absence of a housing needs study.

The Center for Economic Development Research at Georgia Tech is doing such a housing needs study for Bulloch, Bryan, Effingham and Chatham counties, the four Joint Development Authority counties directly involved with the Hyundai plant project, but has yet to complete it. In a Feb. 20 presentation to the commissioners about the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative, Couch connected the county’s likelihood of getting the grant to the outcome of the study.

Thursday, he said he believes that the DABC, which has several million dollars in the bank, should cover the county’s $250,000 share in the otherwise grant-funded project.

Jack Conner and John Lavender are the named owners in VALNOC LLC, and Christopher Gohagan was attorney for the developers in seeking the grant. Calls to Lavender’s and Gohagan’s offices Thursday did not immediately result in interviews.

The pre-application document gave a total construction cost estimate of $16,195,000 for the homes, and a total project cost of $21 million, also including infrastructure, the previous land purchase and development costs.

Announced in Kemp’s 2023 State of the State Address, the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative was initially approved by the General Assembly with $35.7 million funding in 2023. Kemp requested $50 million in the Amended Fiscal Year 2024 budget and an additional $6 million for Fiscal Year 2025 to further the program. The additional funds were approved and signed into law earlier this year.

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