Officials in Marana want to sell a house with a history.
The town built and subsequently refurbished the home at 13441 W. Price Lane, and now intends to sell it as part of an affordable housing program designed to provide quality housing for low-income residents.
"Affordable housing is infrastructure," said T VanHook, Marana's community development director. "It's a national priority, it's a state priority and it's a town of Marana priority."
The town strategic plan also lists affordable housing among its priorities.
The three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,186-square-foot home sits on one acre in rural Marana.
Over the past year, town workers did most the restoration work on the house, including replacing all the appliances and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and making much of the house compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
An application process for people interesting in buying the home recently concluded.
The house will be sold as a part of a U.S. Housing and Urban Development program to a first-time homebuyer. The qualified buyer could make up to 120 percent of the area median income, a total of $69,000 for a family of four, more for larger families. Applicants were required to be Marana residents or live in the town.
The house and property are valued at $106,000, according to the Pima County Assessor's Office web site. A recent appraisal of the home placed its value at $140,000, VanHook said.
The family selected to buy the house would pay a portion of the sale value, while money from subsidized affordable housing programs would pay the remainder of the costs.
In 2001, the town bought the property for $27,200. The house was later built at a cost of $64,145. Recent restoration work totaled about $24,500. In sum, Marana has roughly $115,845 invested in the home.
The town would receive as payment a portion of the total sale value of the home.
For some town officials, the potential sale demonstrates a commitment to help Marana's less affluent residents. But to others, the history of the house on Price Lane, though not the town's recent philanthropy, stand as a reminder of past misguided policies and cronyism.
"If this was such a good deal, why did they stop after one house?" Marana Councilman Russell Clanagan asked.
Clanagan points out the previous occupant of the house was the mother of former councilman Tim Escobedo. At the time the house was built, Escobedo sat on the council.
After the home was finished, Escobedo's parents moved in and signed a five-year lease, paying $10 per year in rent. The town also paid for utilities.
While questions have been raised about a councilman securing a nearly free town-owned house for his parents, Marana Mayor Ed Honea says that's not exactly what happened. Honea, who at the time was a councilman, said the town had recently purchased some homes in Berry Acres that stood in a floodway.
"We wanted people to move out of there because we were concerned," Honea said. The houses had been built decades before the area was identified as a flood zone and a potential danger to residents.
Escobedo's parents owned one of four houses the town bought. Some of the residents moved to other areas, while another was moved into an assisted living home, Honea said.
Around the same time, the town had purchased the land on Price Lane and built the house.
"The way these things came about, it was just a coincidence that it was Tim Escobedo's parents," Honea said.
He also noted the council never voted on who would live in the house. Rather, he said, the decision was made administratively by then-Town Manager Mike Hein.
It wasn't long, the mayor said, before the move started to raise some eyebrows.
"After the fact, when we started to look at it, it was a problem," Honea said.
By that time, the Escobedos had a legally binding contract allowing them to stay in the house. Before the terms of the lease ran out, Escobedo's father passed away. When the lease did expire, Escobedo's mother was elderly, in poor health and, according to Honea, nearly broke. That put the town in a difficult position.
"We didn't want to be the town that evicts a poor old woman," Honea said.
She wasn't evicted. In fact, Escobedo's mother remained in the home, rent free, for nearly two more years.
The whole matter created problems Clanagan isn't eager to repeat.
"It's time that the town get out of the housing business," Clanagan said.
The town owns another house in the Honea Heights neighborhood, which it also intends to sell.
VanHook said the house stands on a one-acre lot, which the town intends to subdivide and allow the charity Habitat for Humanity to build three additional houses.
"Marana is concentrating ourselves in that vein now," Honea said.
The town's community development department also has a home rehabilitation program in which homeowners in need of help to renovate damaged or dilapidated homes can apply for assistance.