BROKEN BOW, OKLA. - Years ago, Frank Meddock’s son wanted to buy his first home, but he didn’t have quite enough money for the downpayment. Luckily for him, his dad had enough savings to help fill the hole. That experience was the inspiration for the elder Meddock, executive director of the Broken Bow Housing Authority, to build 26 affordable rent-toown homes for those who otherwise might never be able to own a home.

“I thought about all the people that don’t have someone that can go into a bank with them and help them out,” he said.

Quail Ridge Homes is located six miles from Broken Bow Lake, a popular destination for many Texans looking to cool off in its waters. It’s easy for them to get to, as the town of 4,200 is located about 26 miles from the Texas state line, in the southeast corner of Oklahoma.

The single-family homes are almost evenly divided between households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) and households earning a maximum of 50 percent of the AMI. Four units are rented to households with no income restrictions. The project consists of seven two-, 17 three-, and two four-bedroom homes. The average size is roughly 1,200 square feet.

At year 15, residents will have paid for about half of the cost of the homes as 100 percent of their monthly rent is applied to the purchase price. At that time, they have the option to buy the home, and can shop around for a mortgage. Monthly rents range from $298 to $447. Sec. 8 vouchers are available to the very low income participants.

Thoughtful design

One might expect all the homes in a rent-to-own subdivision to look the same. Most of the homes at Quail Ridge are made of cedar and stone to harmonize with the surrounding landscape. An architect was brought in on the project, but Meddock designed most of the homes himself. A local mason constructed the front entryways from stones he found in a field behind his studio, said Brent Williams, director of housing programs for Lincoln, Neb.-based Excel Development Group, the project’s developer. The result is a collection of what look like custom-built vacation lodges situated on 15 acres.

“These homes are located just across the street from $1.5 million homes, and nothing looks out of place,” said Meddock. “These are $80,000 homes we’re talking about.”

Quail Ridge Homes marks the second project on which Excel Development and Broken Bow Housing Authority have joined forces. The duo built Alpaca Ranch Retirement Center, an affordable development for seniors in Broken Bow. “This is the nicest-looking project we’ve ever been involved with,” said Williams. “There are several of these homes I could retire to.”

The Broken Bow Housing Authority has built about 78 homes in McCurtain County that it has sold at about $10,000 below market value. Quail Ridge is its first rent-to-own project. The authority may build more, but Meddock said he wants to find a way for tenants to keep from losing their equity if some disaster should occur in, say, year 14 of paying rent.

Even so, affordable housing officials from as far away as Alaska have showered Meddock with questions: How did you do this? How can we do this?

Making it happen

“It helps that the homes are located in a qualified census tract,” said Williams. “So the project received a 30 percent boost in tax credits.”

Because Meddock has construction experience, the housing authority acted as the general contractor, saving about 15 percent of the cost of the project. That money was used to purchase quality materials.

“A lot of times, I think agencies are looking for the most number of units for the amount of tax credits they have in their state and not necessarily putting a high emphasis on long-term curb appeal,” said Williams. “This is really something to be proud of.”

The project tapped $3.1 million in equity from the sale of 9 percent lowincome housing tax credits. The syndicator was Midwest Housing Equity Group’s Oklahoma Equity Fund I. Quail Ridge marks the first investment for the fund. The project also received $485,000 in HOME funds. The city of Broken Bow contributed $37,523.

The development also features some green elements. It operates on about half the cost of a traditional project of similar size thanks to the installation of geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, layered insulation, and compact fluorescent lighting. Because preservation of the hardwood trees was paramount, three homes were moved to another location on the site.

Tenants receive more than a chance to buy a home. Services include homebuyer and budget counseling, transportation services, and child-care services.