An area once known more as a crime haven than a place to call home has been transformed into a quiet neighborhood named Seville, and the city-sponsored subdivision is almost full.
Developed as a collaboration between the city of Decatur and the Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, Seville is a 10-acre subdivision. The only thing slowing it down is the snarled supply chain resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Once the site of the Stonegate public housing project for extremely low-income tenants, Seville is now an affordable owner-occupied subdivision in Southwest Decatur of houses for low- to moderate-income residents.
Allen Stover, city Community Development manager, said the subdivision, planned for up to 20 homes, is at the halfway point for completed houses, but four homes under construction have been sold and there is a waiting list for the final six.
The city used federal Community Development Block Grant funding to build infrastructure and the initial homes. A home sale then subsidizes construction of the next home.
“This subdivision has far exceeded my expectations,” Stover said. “I never thought we would build it out so quickly.”
Frances Tate serves on the Community Based Development Organization, a committee of local residents that provided input for the subdivision on everything from how they wanted the roads to the home designs.
“It’s been a wonderful project, and I’m ecstatic with how it went,” Tate said of the property off Second Street Southwest. “Our goal was to build affordable housing that also benefited the neighborhood, and we did it. It’s just a win-win situation for everyone.”
Shae Kyser Ramirez found her “life-changing home” three years ago. She said she never thought at the time that she would own her own home as a single mom. She would be the fourth person to move into the subdivision.
“I went from living in a small apartment to having the opportunity to have a brand new home,” said Ramirez, who has since married and had a second child.
She said she used to drive by or go sit on the front porch of the partially built home with her son and think, “This is my home. I was so proud as a single parent.”
Neighbor Sharon Miller comes from a different situation. A retired GM Delphi employee, Miller’s life has come full circle. She once lived in the same location in 1973 when it was AME Homes.
“I lived on this very spot,” Miller said of her Aragon Circle home.
She stayed there only three years before moving. The property later become Stonegate Village housing project.
But Stonegate deteriorated and became so crime-plagued that the city bought the property from the Decatur Housing Authority and demolished it in 2003. The city let the site sit empty for almost a decade before starting Seville.
CAPNA finds the prospective homeowners and helps them become financially prepared to own a home. Candy Ayers, CAPNA director of homeownership services, said they initially had a difficult time finding people who could get prequalified for a home loan and afford the homes that then ranged from $125,000 to $135,000.
Board member Michelle Gray King said acceptance of the subdivision was slow at first until people started seeing the new homes come up. Now the group is thrilled with the project. The first homeowner moved into their new home in 2014.
“This has been such a positive project,” King said. “The property is beautiful, and we’re offering very affordable homes."
Ayers said the group chose three-bedroom, two-bath homes, and buyers have multiple designs from which to choose. The homes range from 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. Most are on 0.3 acre sites, although there are a few on up to 1-acre lots.
They planned initially for 24 homes but later adjusted the plan for some larger 1-acre lots and reduced the number to 20, Stover said.
Ayers said the homes started at about $125,000, but area home prices are up and she estimated the prices went up at Seville about 15%. Now the 1,500-square-foot homes in the subdivision are $162,900. The smaller home are $135,000.
Stover said a new homeowner has to commit to five years to benefit from any appreciation from a sale of the house. The homeowner gets only the down payment back if he or she leaves early.
Miller said Seville changed the neighborhood just off Old Moulton Road.
“It’s real quiet,” Miller said. “I couldn’t think of any better place to live.”
Samantha McClain, who moved with her son from Huntsville to Catalina Circle last fall, said Ayers helped get her prepared to own a home with the classes CAPNA offers. She said she never thought as a single mother she would live anywhere but an apartment.
“It’s amazing what the city has done here,” McClain said. “I love our home and a yard for my child. The neighbors are so quiet. There’s plenty of shopping and food nearby.”
Right now, the subdivision consists of an entrance road and two cul-de-sac roads. Ramirez and Miller said it’s a place where children ride their bicycles and scooters in the streets and play pickup football in a backyard.
“My son loves playing football with his friends in our backyard,” Ramirez said.
Miller said she is the “neighborhood grandma. I’m one of the old people out here, and I’ve adopted all of the children as my own.”
Miller said the people are friendly and look out for each other. She likes it that the only entrance is off Second Street and there isn’t one off Old Moulton Road.
“We all look after each other,” Miller said. “We had a man park a car in the subdivision. I went off to church and he was still there when I came back. We finally called the police.”
Stover said there’s no more land at Seville after the 20 homes are complete and there aren’t any plans for the city to build another subdivision.
Ayers said she would to like to build more homes elsewhere. The national group in which CAPNA is a member builds single-family homes and apartments.
“We’ve talked about building some homes on in-fill lots,” Ayers said of properties where the city demolished blighted homes and ended up taking ownership.
Stover said the city owns about 150 in-fill lots. Each lot has to have a clear title for the city to build on it, but “a vast majority have cloudy titles and are substandard.” He said there is property on Eighth Street Southwest that might be a possible site for a subdivision.
“I would love to do a whole subdivision again, but we would have to find another location and we need the city’s support,” Ayers said.