“We’re so pleased that our original funding partners have stayed committed to us,” Wolfe said. “We have reorganized and refocused and significantly reduced our overhead. We’ve narrowed our focus and we’re in a far better financial position then we were before.”
DASH, which began in the Hillside community in 2002, was forced to stop construction and lay off employees at the beginning of the economic downturn last year. Since then, Wolfe says, the group has spent a lot of time doing the preliminary work for new housing projects. With one of the new buzzwords of the Obama administration being “shovel ready” infrastructure, Wolfe says “We’re ready, Mr. President.”
DASH still was able to fill its Laurel Ridge rent-to-own housing community on Grady Street, and even won a Magnolia award from the state Department of Community Affairs for best affordable rental housing.
“That’s a big deal for a non-profit,” Wolfe says. More rent-to-own projects like Laurel Ridge are in the works, including one in West Point. A DASH-owned apartment community is planned on the former Moose Lodge property on Old Airport Road.
At Laurel Ridge, the 70 homes are rented, but the renters have an option to buy the house in 15 years.
“There are so many deserving homeowners out there, but they’re years away from being able to own a home,” Wolfe said.
West Point, which already has a strong partnership with The Fuller Center for Housing and Habitat for Humanity, is excited about a potential new project, Mayor Drew Ferguson IV said. DASH and the city are looking for an appropriate site to build the seven houses.
“This can be an exceptionally good thing for our city,” Ferguson said.
Mallard Lake Apartments will be similar to Valley Ridge apartments on Mooty Bridge Road. The 70 apartments are planned for the Moose Club property.
“That’s been an area that’s been unloved for many years and is considered an area of blight,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe also said tentative plans are being made for DASH to finish a housing development at Colquitt and Ragland streets. The project developer has declared bankruptcy and DASH is looking at securing tax credits to complete it.
“We’ve been wanting and needing to do work in that part of the city,” he said.
Wolfe said DASH also will reopen its homeownership center, which provides “financial fitness” classes to the community. The homeownership center was closed at the beginning of 2008 because of DASH’s cuts.
“If there’s ever a time the community needs financial fitness classes, it’s now with this economy,” Wolfe said. “It should reopen sometime in the next six weeks and we’re very proud of that.”
In spite of the economy, only one of DASH’s original 90 homeowners has declared bankruptcy.
“That attests to the training and education we require,” he said.
The Hillside community in Southwest LaGrange still is DASH’s “home base,” the site of its original renovations and rebuilds and where its headquarters is. Wolfe said this, and the location of the Laurel Ridge project, has turned out to be fortuitous, with the location of the Callaway South industrial park where Kia Motors suppliers and other industries are set to locate.
“When we started DASH, the neighborhood had no significant importance,” he said.
Wolfe said DASH has wound up renting some of its empty Hillside houses to Seawon executives who will only be in LaGrange a short time. The rentals also keep empty houses from becoming the targets of vandals, which happened to one Brownwood Street house last month.
“They didn’t touch anything, they just came in and turned the heat up to ‘high,’ ” Wolfe said. “I don’t know what they were doing.”
DASH would like to provide workforce housing to other industries. There are 45 sites around HIllside where new houses may be built when the market begins to return to normal.
“One of the big debates we have on our board is when to get back in,” Wolfe said.
Jennifer Shrader may be reached at email@example.com or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 236.