News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Habitat seeks $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds

Sisters Habitat for Humanity executive director Sharlene Weed requested a letter of support from the Sisters City Council for Habitat’s application to Deschutes County for $1.5 million in American Rescue Plans Act (ARPA) funds to purchase 10-15 residential lots in the Sisters Woodlands development which will be located on the middle parcel of the former U.S. Forest property at the west end of town.

Weed has been in successful negotiation with Woodlands architect Kevin Eckert of BUILD LLC, representing his clients who own the land — PX2 Investments, Paul and Carla Schneider and Paul Hodge.

Eckert said, “This is a local group with local connections working to achieve a forward-thinking development project. We see Sisters Habitat and our project mission to be very well aligned.”

Their goals include: “Building a mixed community that will serve all of Sisters, while we intentionally provide reasonable density given the dearth of available property; preserve as many trees as possible (over 500); decrease traffic by providing a safe and accessible network of paths for multi-model travel; enhance public experience with a large public open space amenity, as well as over 10 pocket parks; and create housing that meets many income levels,” Eckert said.

The Sisters Woodlands master plan and subdivision application includes zoning for light industrial, downtown commercial, multi-family residential, and open space, all on 31.5 net acres. Eckert hopes to have the project in front of the Planning Commission for deliberation in September. If approved, they could begin on-site preparation this winter, infrastructure in spring 2022, and the first phase of building and housing construction starting summer 2022.

Within the project, the developers have created an affordable mix of housing – cottages, townhomes with attached dwelling units (ADUs), apartment/condominium flats, and congregate housing. They intentionally removed higher-priced single-family residential lots from the project because they didn’t align with the project team’s goals of creating as affordable a mix of housing as possible, to support community housing for individuals, families, and the local workforce.

According to Eckert, “The cottage lots would currently market for over $150,000 per lot, given costs, demand, and inventory challenges.”

Despite the fact the pricing is higher than in previous Habitat developments, BUILD LLC and PX2 are “highly committed to finding a solution with Sisters Habitat to provide affordable housing in Sisters Woodlands.”

“Conceptually, the development team foresees offering at least 10-15 cottage lots in Woodlands, and leveraging Habitat’s long-proven success, to harmoniously construct affordable cottages within the development,” Eckert said.

If Habitat receives the $1.5 million requested of Deschutes County, that will solve an imminent problem for the nonprofit: a lack of any other available land on which to build affordable housing in Sisters.

Habitat would be required to follow the Sisters Woodlands architectural guidelines for the two-to-three cottages built in each of five phases. That would allow for integrating the Habitat homes throughout the development. Eckert also indicated that perhaps the developers would themselves subsidize some of the housing. He said that his firm would consider assisting Habitat by offering to do some of the required permitting work pro bono.

City Council listened to Weed’s request for a letter of support, accompanied by her own letter and a copy of the letter of commitment from Eckert, offering to sell the 10-15 lots at a discount. Council will discuss the request at a future workshop.


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