Developers focusing on less-expensive, in-town properties|[4/01/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

Samuel Baker didn’t have to search far for inspiration to become a home owner. That decision was made when he was young, he said, when his mother told him, &#8220Every man should have his own home.”

Finding a decent place, however, in his price range, in the booming real estate market, was another matter.

&#8220I was looking high and low for a house,” Baker said of a search that took him to markets in Louisiana and Jackson, then to the city of Vicksburg’s new home buyers class, and that won’t officially end until late next month, when he moves out of his apartment and closes on a new, 1,680-square foot, four-bedroom, two-bath home with his fiancee at Jefferson and Farmer streets.

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Baker’s home is the first in Christopher and Lewis Estates, seven lots on Jefferson Street that Jabez Development – the husband-and-wife team of Shawn and Delores Hubbard – hopes will be a first step toward at least partially relieving the dearth of homes in Vicksburg for low- and medium-income buyers.

&#8220This is our first development,” said Delores Hubbard, who operates a realty office on North Frontage Road, &#8220but we plan on developing other places.”

The couple bought the land without grants or outside funding with the goal of offering quality housing in the quickly shrinking market of homes under $100,000, she said; when they’re completed, each of the seven homes slated for Christopher and Lewis Estates will cost between $75,000 and $98,000. Four, including Baker’s, will have four bedrooms and two baths, and three others are slated to be three-bedroom, three-bath. Two other lots have been sold and graded to prep for foundation work, Delores Hubbard said, and the remaining four are still on the market.

Housing under $100,000 is &#8220slim and none” in Vicksburg, agreed Realtor Pam Beard, who said very few of the 243 properties on her company’s rolls fall between $50,000 and $100,000, and the ones that do are old or in need of major repairs.

&#8220There would be none that are new,” she said.

&#8220Good housing under $100,000 is very scarce,” said Stanley Martin, a Realtor with Vicksburg Realty, who guessed most new four-bedroom, two-bath houses would fall around $150,000. &#8220There is a need for that, in my opinion.”

The Hubbards wanted to fill that need not only to take advantage of the market, but also to exercise their faith – &#8220This is all Jesus,” Shawn Hubbard said on a tour of the property last week – by helping people who likely wouldn’t be very encouraged by the other options in their income bracket. Delores Hubbard said future owners could come largely from the city’s homebuyer class, which offers potential buyers help in deciding if they can afford to buy, finding and negotiating with Realtors, understanding financing and credit, what to expect at a closing and, for those who finish the class, grants to go toward a down payment, said Keysha McDonald of the city planning department. Baker’s financing, set up through Regions Mortgage on South Frontage Road, also includes disability money for the eye troubles that have prevented him from landing a job in Vicksburg.

Given the number of people who’d like to live in the city but don’t want to deal with the escalating real estate prices – Beard said the city has 1,500 workers commuting daily from outlying towns – those who are finding ways to get into houses without crashing their budgets are counting their blessings.

&#8220I was lucky,” Baker said. &#8220I always wanted to live in Vicksburg.”