Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, A recent $700,000 grant will help Marana expand its affordable housing program, which already includes the Marana Apartments (above.) The grant will go towards 40 houses in Honea Heights.

A sizable grant will help get the ball rolling on a new affordable housing project in Marana.

Last week, town officials received a $700,000 grant awarded by the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Program for use in the Honea Heights neighborhood.

The money would be used to subsidize the cost of 40 houses for qualified buyers.

“We really want to see homes go to help Maranans, people who work in Marana, get a start,” Director  of Community Development T. VanHook said.

With rising gas prices, it may become difficult for people to drive from Red Rock or Tucson to work in Marana; therefore, there needs to be a bigger effort to provide affordable housing closer to the town’s center, VanHook said.

Even though the prices of some housing developments are starting to come down, they are still not within the $120,000 to $125,000 range town officials are hoping to see.

“We’re just really starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” VanHook said.

The grant money is open-ended and can be used in a number of ways, like paying architecture or engineering fees or building infrastructure or drainage.

Divided among the 40 houses, the grant money must reduce the price of each unit by $17,500.

To qualify for a house, a family needs to make between 65 or 80 percent below the median income for the area, VanHook said.

For example, using the 80-percent rule, if the median income is $52,400, a family of four would have to have an income of no greater than $41,920.

The town will roll out a preliminary plan for the project in about 60 days, with an estimated completion in 12 to 18 months.

The generally accepted definition of affordable is if a family spends no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. About a third of American families spend more than 30 percent on housing, according to Habitat for Humanity.

The Honea Heights Redevelopment Project is not the only affordable housing venture in Marana. The Marana Apartments, just across the street from town hall, are also included in Marana’s low-cost housing efforts. The apartments rent to people who make less than a certain income, but tenants already living there can remain if they make more, said Manager Rick Rice.

Town officials are also hoping to kick off a Habitat for Humanity project in July.

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