New Life

Published 10:18 am Monday, July 25, 2016

AHOSKIE – Even as dignitaries were praising the grand opening of affordable housing here on Monday morning, two first-time residents of the new Cypress Court Apartments could be seen in the background making their way towards a new life.

And that’s exactly what the developers and finance partners of this 48-unit apartment community dedicated to serving low and moderate income residents wanted to witness.

Cypress Court, located at the end of an extension to Everett Street behind Pizza Inn and Newmarket Shopping Center, officially opened its doors last month and is already the new home of numerous individuals and families.

The property was developed by The Affordable Housing Group of North Carolina, Inc., based in Charlotte.

“For 50 years, The Affordable Housing Group has been inspired to help all of the citizens of North Carolina to perfect their humanity by having a wonderful, safe, decent and affordable place to live,” said Dr. Harold Barnes, interim president of the non-profit organization’s board of directors, as he addressed those attending the grand opening.

“After hundreds and thousands of non-profit agencies have gone out of business, God has chosen to keep us here and available so we could bring this housing project to the town of Ahoskie,” Barnes continued. “We are so proud to have worked with the town officials here and various partners, to include (U.S.) Senators (Richard) Burr and (Tom) Tillis; the funding agencies – Community Affordable Housing Equity Corporation, Community Investment Corporation of the Carolinas, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, and BB&T Bank – this is what happens when people get together with one agenda to build safe and affordable housing.”

Barnes noted that some of the individuals renting apartments at Cypress Court have never lived in such an environment in their lives.

“The smiles on their faces tell the story,” he said of those already calling Cypress Court as home. “That’s what it’s all about and all the agencies represented here today have made this happen.”

Cypress Court serves households with maximum incomes of 60 percent or less of the area median income of Hertford County, adjusted for household size. For a four-person household this would equate to an annual income at or below $31,980. Rents range from $374 to $580 monthly.

The Cypress Court community includes a mix of four, one-bedroom, 28 two-bedroom, and 16 three-bedroom attractive garden apartment units. Six units are designed to accommodate residents with disabilities.

Kathy Stilwell, Executive Director of The Affordable Housing Group, also addressed the crowd at Monday’s event.

“We always think of the mission of our Group, and that’s to enhance the communities we’re in and improve lives. That’s what we’re doing in Ahoskie and with our other projects,” she stressed.

Stilwell said enhancing communities involves building high quality, attractive, functional, energy-efficient housing….an asset that will be in the community for the long haul.

“How do we do that,” Stilwell asked rhetorically. “We bring folks together that have expertise to achieve your goals. That starts with hiring an architect that sees and understands your vision; hiring the right contractor to put it all together; and the right group to manage the oversight of the day-to-day operations. All of that came together here in Ahoskie.”

She also mentioned how Cypress Court not only impacts the lives of those locally who will call the apartments as home, but others as well during the construction phase of the $6.5 million project, which came in slightly under budget.

“Our contractor made an effort to hire local subcontractors and to purchase building materials from local merchants,” Stilwell noted. “That is a boost to the local economy. There were as many as 122 local residents worked on this job site.”

She said the energy-efficient apartments help save on the utility bills paid by the residents.

“That helps by putting extra cash in their pockets, money they can spend locally,” Stilwell stated. “We also purposely located this complex close to the local amenities….the residents here can walk to the grocery store and other merchants.”

There are also onsite amenities at Cypress Court as residents have access to a community building that includes a property management office, full kitchen, sitting/meeting area, computer/library room, laundry room, fitness room and screened porch. Outdoor amenities include a playground and a picnic shelter with tables and a grill.

“And we do all of this and still manage to keep the rent very affordable,” Stilwell insisted.

“But none of this comes to be without a price tag,” she continued. “We had local support, religious support, state support and federal support on this project,” she added, also thanking community partners Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA) and The Town of Ahoskie.

Rev. C. David Stackhouse, pastor of New Ahoskie Baptist Church and Mayor Pro Tem on the Ahoskie Town Council, gave the invocation for the dedication of the new apartments.

Also making remarks at the ribbon cutting / dedication ceremony were Betty Jo Shepheard, Eastern Region Field Representative for Senator Burr, Adam Caldwell, Eastern Region Field Representative for Senator Tillis, and Will Parry-Hill of the NC Housing Finance Agency. Parry-Hill praised the work in the North Carolina General Assembly by local politicians – House Representative Howard Hunter III of Ahoskie and Senator Erica Smith-Ingram of Gaston for their commitment to maintain the low-income housing credits used for projects such as Cypress Court.

The primary funding source for such a project comes through the low-income housing tax credits allocated from the federal government to the state level. From there the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency allocates those funds to The Affordable Housing Group.

Cypress Court, now under the care of Excel Property Management, is currently accepting applicants. For leasing information contact the management group at (252) 332-1950.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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