News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Legislators tour Habitat projects

Salem came to Sisters last week with a visit from Representatives Cheri Helt and Jack Zika who came to see two Habitat for Humanity projects, Village Meadows South and ClearPine.

The legislators were accompanied by Margaret Salazar, director of Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS), Kenny LaPoint, assistant director of OHCS Public Affairs, Shannon Vilhauer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oregon, and Nicole Stoenner, legislative and community coordinator.

Darleene Snider, construction manager for Sisters Habitat for Humanity, led the tour of the two Habitat properties. The group toured the house at 313 Desert Rose Loop that is being built for a mother and her two sons. Like all homes in the Village Meadows South, located at Brooks Camp Road and McKinney Butte Road, the home is a Platinum Energy Star residence. Snider told the group all the homes are well insulated including rigid foam between all exterior and interior walls.

The land for Village Meadows was purchased by Habitat in 2011 during the recession for a purchase price of $561,000 ($33,000 per lot). Funding for the purchase came from the Meyer Memorial Trust ($260,000), OHCS ($100,000 zero-interest loan over five years), and Habitat fundraising proceeds ($201,000).

Nine homes have been built to date; three are in progress. Habitat is currently working on a master plan modification to partition remaining lots to gain four more homesites.

The house at 313 had the walls built by the construction class at Sisters High School. When they were completed, Hoyt’s raised the walls with the students there to see their craftsmanship put into place. The home next door is being built as a YouthBuild Americorps project by Heart of Oregon students. James Collins is their team leader, working under the supervision of Habitat’s general contractor Snider.

In the Meadows, Habitat is purposely not copying house plans to provide variety in the development. Owners have some say in the house design and finishing. No interior walls are load-bearing, so adjustments can be made to interior spaces to meet the needs of the homeowner. They get to choose their interior paint and trim. Snider pointed out the use of interior pocket doors to eliminate the space taken by doors that swing into a room.

Homes are heated and cooled in the main living space with a heat pump, and Cadet wall heaters warm the bedrooms. Most of the homes have cabinets built by a cabinet-maker who provides them for his cost. Two-bedroom homes average 960 square feet and three-bedrooms are 1,056 square feet.

Habitat homes cost $85.50 per square foot, plus the land cost, which for 2019 is $40,417. Monthly house payments range from $600-$900 depending on the family’s income, and is never more than 30 percent of their income. The payments include taxes, insurance, and homeowners’ dues.

Habitat costs are kept low largely due to the volunteer construction crews. Snider is their only paid construction staff. Besides the volunteer crews who regularly build, there is also a five-day women’s build every year. Local businesses and banks can organize work crews. Deschutes County provides workers to do lot cleanups and teens in the Deschutes County Juvenile Justice program come out to do a variety of jobs. YouthBuild and the high school construction class are a valuable addition to the building process, while the students gain marketable skills.

All owners must complete 500 hours of sweat equity working on their homes. If an owner is physically unable to do that, they can help with office work at Habitat headquarters and provide lunch once a week for the construction team. All families must also complete a homeowner’s class. To qualify, applicants must have lived or worked within the Sisters School District for at least one year and meet income requirements of earning 60 percent of the median income or below.

Each family has a sponsor and is matched with a partner family. For a year after taking possession of their home, each family gets a quarterly check-in to be sure everything is going well and to receive help with any problems.

From submission of applications for permits to the family turning the key in the front door generally takes about eight months. Because the YouthBuild project is a student learning program, those homes generally take about a year.

Next spring Habitat will start construction of three sets of duplexes on six lots in ClearPine in the north end of Sisters. The lots were purchased with LIFT funding (Local Innovation and Fast Track). The housing program was created by Senate Bill 1582 with the goal of creating affordable homes for vulnerable families focused on communities of color and rural communities. The six lots appraised at over $80,000. Habitat’s purchase price was $58,000 per lot.

Developer of ClearPine, Peter Hall, originally agreed to build eight units of affordable housing as part of his development agreement with the City. Habitat is helping him fulfill that commitment.

Three townhouses for six families will be built. One duplex will have two, two-bedroom units. The middle two-story building will have two, three-bedroom units, and the one on the north end will consist of one, two-bedroom and one, one-bedroom. Across the street will be more of the cottage homes that Hall has already built elsewhere in the development.

The homes will be deed-restricted, land-trust homes. They will be perpetually affordable, with Habitat having the right of first refusal.

Representative Helt of Bend was very impressed with what she saw and heard on the tour. Her father is a builder, so she said she is familiar with the challenges of construction.

“You (Habitat) are doing a spectacular job. Everyone has super energy. I applaud your efforts,” she said at the completion of the tour.

Representative Jack Zika of Redmond likewise had supportive words for the work done by Habitat. He said he personally had the opportunity to participate in a Habitat build with a group of Bend realtors.

Helt conveyed Rep. Daniel Bonham’s regrets for not being able to join the tour due to other commitments. Helt reported that Bonham, who represents Sisters, “is super supportive of Sisters.”


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