Highlands regains its footing | TheUnion.com

Highlands regains its footing

After three years, a foreclosure and now new ownership, the Highlands affordable housing project is back on the market.

The project was initiated in 2005, but the original developer sold only four of the single-family homes in the Brunswick Basin before the property was foreclosed upon on April 3.

Citizens Bank, which made an $8 million loan to Bill Ross of Smartville for the project, has since hired Don Fultz of Nevada City to market the remaining 31 homes that have been built.

Fultz, who has experience in subdivision sales, expects the homes will sell quickly.

“These are the least expensive new family homes in the area,” he said last week while giving a tour of the cozy neighborhood that one day will include a pet exercise area and a community garden.

The starting prices for the houses range from $215,000 for a one-bedroom and one-bath home to $295,000 for a three-bedroom and two-bath home on a larger lot. The square footage on the homes ranges from 685 to 1,103 and lot sizes average about 4,000 square feet, according to Fultz.

Fultz said a number of improvements will be made to the property, including adding privacy fences around the houses and making solar power available.

Citizens Bank was contacted by Fultz when he heard of the foreclosure, said Tim Peterson, the bank’s chief credit officer.

The bank’s commitment to the affordable housing project continues even though it’s been a difficult road to get to this point, he said.

“We want to see that the people who work in our community have an opportunity to be a homeowner,” said Peterson, adding that Highlands is the bank’s only foreclosure since the subprime mortgage crisis began battering the Bay Area and valley communities like Stockton.

The Highlands project was unveiled with some fanfare early in 2005 when housing prices were peaking in western Nevada County, making it nearly impossible for young families to buy a home here.

Ross said at the time he wanted to create workforce housing for teachers, nurses, firefighters and police officers, a vision that was embraced by many.

But the project encountered problems and delays from the very beginning until Ross had to walk away from it on April 3.

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail pbutler@theunion.com or call 477-4239.

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