Nine Hendersonville aldermen have sponsored a resolution expressing opposition to a proposed rental section in the Durham Farms community.
Freehold Communities, the developer of Durham Farms, has plans to build 165 rental units in the form of townhomes and villas in the community, said Kash Kneese, a resident of Durham Farms and a member of an information-gathering committee of homeowners. These units would make up 13 percent of the community when completed.
Freehold is renting out the lots themselves. As a developer, they sold the lots to builders that sold to homeowners. However, in this case, they will be the landlord for these 165 lots after homes are built on them.
BOMA has received a petition with 681 signatures from Durham Farms, Autumn Creek and Drakes Pointe residents opposing the rental properties. While there are no planned rental units in Autumn Creek and Drakes Pointe, residents there were concerned about their proximity to a large number of rental units, said Lauren Musto, spokesperson for the residents of Durham Farms.
Kneese said homeowners in Durham Farms were led to believe when they bought a house that their entire development would be owner-occupied homes, adding that
Freehold committed to holding town hall meetings, but that so far, there was only one virtual meeting scheduled with a 200-participant cap and a requirement that questions be submitted beforehand.
Kneese also brought up that residents were concerned the rental units would have a negative impact on their home values and that they would allow Freehold to keep control of the HOA.
Generally, Musto explained, when a certain percentage of homes in a community are owned, the developers turn over seats on the HOA. While Freehold has not shared specific plans about the HOA yet, Musto explained that if they continue to own homes in the community, they could still have significant influence or maintain the board.
“Freehold has never taken our requests for information and inclusion in the decision seriously and brushed us aside every step of the way,” Musto said. “Due to the lack of transparency and cooperation, we felt we had no choice but to move forward with the petition and bring it to BOMA. “
“We’re concerned that the character of the community as we bought into it is going to change,” she said. “There is very much a culture here.”
“[We have] great fear that these will not be the only rental units due to Freehold's constant changing of community development plan without resident input,” Kneese said. “The proposal of rentals goes against the spirit of Durham Farms and what we as residents bought into when we purchased our homes.”
Freehold has confirmed to the Hendersonville Standard that the 165 units are the only rental units planned at this time.
The BOMA resolution, drafted by Ward 6 Alderman Eddie Roberson, expresses disapproval of the decision and points out that the Board of Mayor and Alderman has approved numerous revisions in Durham Farms’ Master Plan, but that the development never mentioned it was considering changing from residential units only.
The resolution also states that the rental units will change the intent of the development from residential to commercial and that the rental units will not qualify for City trash pickup services.
“The underlying theme of this resolution is that people who choose to lease are second-class citizens who bring down property values. Nothing is further from the truth. If there’s anything that will harm the long-term appeal of Durham Farms, it will be the perception that Hendersonville is unwelcoming and discriminatory,” Freehold Communities said in a written statement.
“Unfortunately, this resolution comes before we’ve even had the opportunity to discuss our plans with Durham Farms residents or the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. It’s important to know that nothing has changed in our development plan – we are not adding homes or changing the types of homes being built. Given the increasing popularity and demand for high-end homes for lease, we believe it’s better for those homes to be owned and managed by a committed developer that has already invested tens of millions of dollars in the community rather than another company with no ties to or investment in Durham Farms or Hendersonville.”
Freehold said that another company had expressed interest in owning rental properties in Durham Farms.
Don Walker, of Jon Burns Real Estate Consulting, which works with Freehold, talked about the effects rental homes had on communities like Durham Farms. He said there are over 16 million single-family rental homes in the nation and that many master-planned communities already have a lot of them.
Walker mentioned that while he was not familiar with the ordinances of Hendersonville, he did not recall other similar projects being labeled as commercial.
“They’re still houses,” he said. “They still have a family living in them.”
Walker said that the homes would have to fit in with the architecture and style of the community. He also pointed out that the industry standard for the minimum income to rent in a community like this is three times the annual rent. He said the low side of this income would be around $70,000 but could be as much as $100,000.
Walker said some people rent for the convenience of it. The landlord of a rental home provides all maintenance, possibly better than other homes in the area.
Others rent because they are waiting for their home in the community to be built, or they want to try the community, he said.
When asked about the effect the homes would have on surrounding property values, Walker said that the homes would be indistinguishable from the ones around them.
“This is going to be a substantial investment and the owner of the property is going to maintain those homes to preserve that value to continue to be able to attract tenants,” he said. “These projects in general are going to be very well-maintained over the years.”
Walker said that like in many popular planned communities across the country, there will be rental homes in Durham Farms over the years.
Renters in these types of community cover a broad cross-section of demographic profiles that is probably very similar to people already in the community, Walker said.
“Rental homes are part of our nation’s housing solution. Everybody needs a place to live,” he said. “It seems like the rental lifestyle is one of choice for a lot of people.”
Mayor Jamie Clary and Aldermen Russ Edwards, Jonathan Hayes, Roberson, Mark Skidmore, Jim Waters, Darrell Woodcock, Andrew Bolt, and Scott Sprouse have signed on to the resolution so far. It will be discussed and voted on at the next BOMA meeting, Sept. 22.