Work on NeighborWorks Waco’s newest housing development, a subdivision of duplexes in South Waco, is underway.

The 27 duplexes will sit on land a couple blocks behind the H-E-B at 1821 S. Valley Mills Drive and near Interstate 35. During a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, NeighborWorks Waco President Roy Nash said the $6.5 million project, dubbed Belmont Village, is intended to serve as an “incubator” for future homeowners.

“We have close to 90 single-family homes,” Nash said. “This will be our first venture into duplexes, but we’ve been wanting to venture into multi-family for the last several years.”

Neighborworks Waco has partnered with developers Pat Patterson and Troy Glasson to build 54 units, each about 1,000 square feet and $1,000 a month to rent. NeighborWorks board member Chris Gutierrez said the organization assembled the land from pieces of seven tracts along the interstate.

“These properties are all remainder parcels from the tracts along Interstate 35, forgotten property, if you will,” Gutierrez said. “It’s often forgotten how much a certain segment of our population needs affordable and workforce housing.”

Neighborworks bought the land 10 years ago. Nash said a city culvert that runs through the area makes the land more or less unusable to the businesses nearby.

“It became sort of a modified landfill with people dumping stuff on it,” Nash said. “We bought it knowing there was a lot of work to do, and so we waited until the time was right to put the development together.”

NeighborWorks is an organization that provides lending services, financial guidance and rental programs to families with the end goal of helping them own a home. Nash said about five NeighborWorks tenants move into homes every year, and some choose to buy the homes they had been renting through Neighborworks.

“We allow them to break their lease to become a homeowner, so we make it as seamless as possible,” Nash said.

The city agreed to spend $500,000 to replace an outdated sewer main with a larger one that will support the development.

“This is a great project,” City Manager Wiley Stem III said. “Neighborworks has been a great partner with the city for a number of years, and we’re so excited to see more quality, affordable workforce housing going into this area.”

It is an increasingly rare opportunity to develop land in the core of the city, Waco City Councilman Hector Sabido said during the groundbreaking for the project.

“This project is an example of partnerships that are taking place between organizations and investors and the city,” Sabido said. “We are very excited to get this opportunity to build new homes within the city, which is unheard of these days.”

Neighborworks Chief Financial Officer Karen Saucedo said the subdivision will include a walking trail and sidewalks, and NeighborWorks will oversee maintenance of the yards.

“They’ll of course have fenced backyards, which are great for anyone who has pets,” Saucedo said. “We allow that and we encourage that.”

Nash said the infrastructure will be built by January at the earliest, work on the duplexes will start in February and the subdivision should be built out by 2021.

Saucedo said the demand for rental units in Waco is consistently high, and NeighborWorks Waco’s properties tend to stay at capacity.

“I’ve owned property in Waco since 1980, and I have never had any issue with renting in Waco,” Nash said. “With the amenities we’re going to offer here, we can see this filling up very fast and being a real boon to the community.”

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