COLUMBIA — After a long struggle with Columbia over his plans to build affordable cottage housing off Ridgeway Avenue, developer Amir Ziv plans to move forward with the project, but he'll get a helping hand from the city.
“I would like to be able to break ground in a month,” Ziv said.
Last year, Ziv persuaded the City Council to rezone the vacant lot and allow him to build the cottages, but the new zoning carried some baggage. Ziv will have to meet city subdivision regulations as he redevelops the property. That means installing larger sewer lines and managing storm water. He might also have to build 100 feet of sidewalk.
The expense of meeting all those requirements had prevented Ziv from moving forward. But council members, who are interested in the cottages as a demonstration of an affordable housing development, decided earlier this month to contribute to his cause. Ziv will receive $7,000 from a city fund that's used for demolishing dilapidated houses to help cover the cost of the sewer lines, and he might also receive a $1,000 rebate for each cottage through the Energy Star program if they meet energy efficiency standards.
Ziv said the city money is enough to get him going on the project, but he still regrets that the subdivision rules are driving up the cost of building the cottages, which he now estimates will sell for about $100,000 apiece.
Ziv estimates that the storm-water requirements will cost him $3,000 to $4,000 and that the sidewalk would cost $1,000 to $3,000. He hopes the city will drop the sidewalk mandate, given that Ridgeway Avenue has no sidewalks on either side of the street now.
Ziv said the subdivision designation is undermining the purpose of building the cottages.
“I don’t fit in the box they put me in,” Ziv said. “I’m trying to build low-income housing, and all of this adds up.”
Ziv estimates it will cost $60 to $65 per square foot to build the cottages, which he has said before would be about 870 square feet. That's a total construction cost of up to $56,550 per cottage.
The cost of the entire development project would be $10,000 to $13,000 cheaper if he didn’t have to comply with the subdivision standards, he estimated.
Although he still has expenses he feels are unnecessary, Ziv has decided to begin the project. He has no plans for future meetings with the city. If he breaks ground within the month he hopes the cottages will be done by the end of the year.
“I’m gonna build them to the best of my ability, but it’s been a fight,” Ziv said. “I’ve been paying a mortgage on an empty lot, getting nothing in return, for almost two years.”