Housing Development Brings New Construction to an Older Community in Southern Virginia

By Amie Knowles

November 12, 2020

A new housing development rises in a southwestern Virginia city.

MARTINSVILLE – No, it’s not Mr. Roger’s, but there is a new neighborhood coming to town. In Martinsville, several groups recently launched a joint effort to bring a new development to the community.

Called Five Points, the neighborhood plans adjoin the five-way intersection in Martinsville of Fayette St, Memorial Blvd S and W Church St.

The plans for the neighborhood include new townhomes and cottages. They range from $125,000 to $155,000 on average, though prices vary based on final designs and building and construction costs.

The change in the city’s landscape welcomes home buyers interested in affordable housing with low-interest loans available through the United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

That’s big for a city where 55% of the homes originated in the era following World War II – the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, according to Neighborhood Scout.

With the new neighborhood, 27 cottages and townhomes will join the 5,740 houses and apartments listed in the city in 2019.

The United Way of Henry County and Martinsville serves as the contact organization for those interested in living at Five Points.

“I think it’s very important to provide new construction. You know, a lot of studies have gone out and said that the housing stock in Martinsville and Henry County is older than it likely should be,” said Philip Wenkstern, United Way’s executive director. “That there hasn’t been, really, many new projects, building new homes in the community to replace a dilapidated housing stock.”

A group effort

Wenkstern said the United Way looks forward to working with several different entities in the Martinsville area on the project.

Virginia Housing, City of Martinsville, USDA-Rural Development, Nationwide Homes, Silverpoint Homes, Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., United Way of Henry County & Martinsville and the Harvest Foundation worked together on the project. Together, they donated money, time and talent to the neighborhood effort.

Virginia Housing helped in a huge way. They provided a $500,000 FY20 Community Impact Innovative Demonstrations grant. That helped crews complete site work for the neighborhood.

“Virginia Housing is so excited to partner with the City of Martinsville, the Harvest Foundation and others across the area to bring much-needed affordable home ownership opportunities to the region’s workforce,” said Virginia Housing CEO Susan Dewey. “This new innovation program was created to do just that – to help support the adoption of new construction technologies that ultimately expand the inventory of affordable homes to all Virginians.”

The construction crew

Bob the Builder won’t be working on this project, but two trusted home builders sure will be.

Leading the project, Nationwide Homes and Silverpoint Homes will create the neighborhood using modern modular home building techniques.

“Nationwide Homes, a member of the Cavco family with 20 manufacturing plants located across the United States, is very proud to be a part of this very exciting and much-needed development here in our hometown of Martinsville,” said Don Aheron, general manager of Nationwide Homes. “Nationwide Homes has been in business here in the city for over 60 years and is committed to helping improve our community and the lives of our associates and neighbors. It is our goal that this project will help pave the way for future improvements and act as a template for other areas across America to do the same.”

Dwayne Shell, Silverpoint Homes general manager, looked forward to collaborating on the Five Points project.

“Over the past 20 years, Silverpoint Homes has built residential and commercial dwellings, with family in mind,” Shell said. “It is our hope that the Five Points project will support our families, strengthen our community and encourage further development in surrounding areas.”

Good timing

It’s the right time for a new neighborhood on the edge of the southwestern region. That’s because buying a home in the area doesn’t cost a fortune like it might in nearby Roanoke or Greensboro, North Carolina.

Roanoke homes, according to Zillow, average around $177,683, while Greensboro homes average around $172,297. The typical home in Martinsville swings in around $77,893 – but again, it’s more than likely several decades old.

For less than $50,000 more than the average local price, home buyers could get a new build in an upcoming neighborhood. That could appeal to folks for several reasons, Wenkstern mentioned.

“Honestly, recently, the real estate market in Martinsville has been very hot,” Wenkstern said. “There’s been lots of individuals that have been taking advantage of historically low interest rates to move into a home. But most of the houses in the community are not new construction. Typically, when you’re looking at new construction homes, if one were to look at building, you can imagine it would cost you more money to build new, rather than move into an older home.”

Dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s

The City of Martinsville provides direction on property acquisition and site development for the new neighborhood.

“The project meets a need in the community that’s been identified and the result will be a win for everyone – new, modern affordable housing is constructed in the community that adds to the tax base,” said Leon Towarnicki, Martinsville’s city manager. “Nationwide has the opportunity to showcase their product and do a project literally in their backyard, and grant funding helps offset some of the development costs to ensure optimum affordability. This is a great project for Nationwide and the City of Martinsville, and one that can be replicated in other communities.”

Households earning up to $48,300 may be eligible for a 33-year term direct loan, provided by USDA Rural Development, to finance a new home in the Five Points neighborhood. Households earning up to $90,300 may look into a lender-financed guaranteed loan. Owners must occupy the homes.

The United Way will also help families interested in the homes through the Virginia Individual Development Account program.

“What the IDA program is, is it’s for individuals that fall within a set income criteria. It provides about 16 hours of financial education training in conjunction with a match savings account,” Wenkstern said. “After the individual’s received this training, they open an account and they start saving money each month and once they’ve completed their goal, the grant will match their savings at a rate of $8 for every $1 saved. So if an individual saves $500, then we will be able to provide them, through this grant, $4,000 that could go toward the down payment of a new home.”

Aiding the move-in process

Making a new home attainable for Martinsville residents propelled the project forward.

“I know that the people that really put this project together – because we came on a little bit later in the project timeline – they really stressed trying to get these homes at a price they thought would be affordable for individuals making a reasonable income in the community,” Wenkstern said. “Through their partnership with Virginia Housing and Rural Development as well, they’re going to have access to some really good loan products as well, that make it even easier for these individuals to get into these homes.”

If the cottages and townhomes don’t sell as quickly as project developers hope, the beautiful builds won’t go to waste. That’s in part thanks to the Harvest Foundation, which already put a plan in place, ensuring the neighborhood’s ultimate success.

The nonprofit organization has an Affordable Housing Fund that will serve as a stop-gap for the project if homes at Five Points are on the market for an extended time. DeWitt House, senior program officer at the Harvest Foundation, expressed that the new neighborhood development would support revitalization in Uptown Martinsville – and hopefully spur new residential options in the city.

“For more than a decade, Harvest has worked with many local and regional partners to grow our local workforce and recruit industry providing our community with living-wage jobs,” House said. “We’ve experienced great strides in our workforce, but with this continued growth, we’ve identified a pressing need to play catch up in all levels of residential housing. This project is a successful testament to the power of collaboration when public, private and nonprofit partners address local issues.”

Turn key

While there’s no move-in date set yet, many families could be well on their way toward new home ownership.

“Home ownership is a lofty ambition for many families,” Wenkstern said. “However, with the programs and services now in place, it will be easier now than ever to attain a potentially life changing asset.”

Once the neighborhood’s complete, residents won’t have to go too far to experience many things Martinsville offers. That includes everything from shopping to outdoor recreation opportunities to yummy cuisine.

“For myself personally, I’m a big fan of Dixie Pig Barbecue,” Wenkstern said, noting that the establishment sits right down the road from the project site.

Also, there’s the benefit of increasing one’s assets.

“Obviously, you have the benefit of the individual. There are few things that are guaranteed to improve your net worth of your family than home ownership in the long term. You could view your mortgage payment as paying rent, but while you’re doing that, you’re increasing an asset that you own, which is obviously fantastic. You also have the benefits from the city as well, in terms of areas being redeveloped, properties coming online and then the locality being able to derive real estate tax benefits from that,” Wenkstern said. “So it’s really a win-win. Families are in a more stable environment, which really helps with their development. Ideally, it’s going to improve their net worth in the long run and also helps the locality for generating additional tax revenues so that they can work on improving other areas of the community.”

Applications are open

Those interested in the VIDA program or applying for a new home at Five Points may contact Lisa Frick at the United Way of Henry and Martinsville by calling (276) 403-5965 or (276) 358-1261 or emailing [email protected].

To find out more about the types of homes and available floor plans, contact Silverpoint Homes at (276) 790-3966 or email [email protected].

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. She can be reached at [email protected]

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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