- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Two couples in Galax are first-time homeowners, thanks to a partnership between local and federal agencies that provides new houses for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them.
Jean and Rodney Howard and Donald and Beth Caldwell recently moved into new homes in the Knob Hill subdivision in Galax.
The community started in 1995 and has grown to include more than a dozen homes for low- to moderate-income families.
It began as a partnership between the city and Virginia Mountain Housing, and now involves agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Mount Rogers, HOPE Ministries (formerly Mountain Shelter) and the Mount Rogers Mental Health Support Program.
The subdivision at the end of Middleton Street, off Poplar Knob Road, was funded with a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state and was built on a 14-acre piece of land donated by the city. The grant funds were used to provide public water and sewer service, lighting, sidewalks and paved roads.
The Howards were living in a 43-year-old mobile home in Fries before qualifying for the Knob Hill subdivision.
Last month, they moved into a 1,300-square-foot home with a garage.
“This house has got more room, and it’s a whole lot prettier. And we have a better view here,” said Jean Howard, sitting in her front porch swing with a panoramic view of Galax stretching out behind her.
“We’ve lived in trailer parks since 1991,” says Rodney. “We never thought we’d be able to get a house.”
All the rooms in the three-bedroom house are handicapped accessible, there’s a wheelchair ramp on the porch and plenty of room for the couple’s two dogs, Crackerjack and Fuzzy.
Linda Powers, a mental health support specialist with Mount Rogers’ Galax office, said the Howards’ case manager, April Surratt, helped the couple get the house.
Treva Sparks, program coordinator for Mount Rogers Mental Health Support, commended Powers on her efforts, as well. “It required a tremendous amount of work and dedication on Linda’s part to get this accomplished.”
Sparks said the Caldwells lived for a long time in a very small apartment on Painter Street in Galax before qualifying for a Knob Hill house. “This is a great opportunity for them.”
Their house is 864 square feet, with two bedrooms, an office and handicapped accessibility.
Sparks said the Caldwells’ case manager, Pat Frost, and Emil Sandstrom and Beverly Marshall from Mount Rogers were instrumental in getting the house for the couple.
Tommy Blevins of Fries built both of the newest houses, and Jeanie Horne of USDA Rural Development said the builder went above and beyond the call of duty to make the homes special.
“He hung shades, did landscaping and even built a custom entertainment center and fireplace for the Howards,” she said.
Mount Rogers and USDA Rural Development recently held open houses for the Howards’ and Caldwells’ new homes. The agencies are trying to find residents who might qualify for homes on the development’s two remaining lots.
The house payments on the Knob Hill homes are typically less than the monthly rent on many apartments, or a payment on the kind of substandard housing where many of the residents lived before. Interest rates are kept low, with some residents qualifying for zero interest, based on income.
The homes also are larger than the average home qualifying families could afford to buy outside of Knob Hill. The average house is 1,060 square feet, and some even have basements and garages.
All have high energy efficiency and are equipped with electric heat pumps, thermal pane windows and cellulose insulation.
• For more information about USDA Rural Development programs, call (276) 228-3513 ext. 121.