News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters receives major grant funding for affordable housing

The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners awarded $1.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in support of affordable housing in Sisters last week.

Habitat for Humanity received $800,000 to purchase ten 2,800-square-foot lots in Sisters Woodlands, where they will construct single-family cottages.

The City of Sisters received $500,000 in reserve for 12-18 months to give the City time to find land and a partner who builds affordable housing to build 40-50 units. This will be a multi-million-dollar project, according to City Manager Cory Misley. The City wants to support the expansion of affordable workforce housing in Sisters. The ARPA money will be combined with additional funds provided by the City and other partners to that end.

“The City is thankful and excited about these funds. We are hopeful that this $500,000 will be a critical part of identifying and building the next multi-family affordable project in Sisters,” said Misley. “If we don’t do this now, the situation regarding affordable housing could get worse.”

Misley said that the lack of land within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is a big hindrance. He’s been told there are currently only five parcels of two-plus acres, and only two that are 10 acres or more.

The City is just beginning to update its housing plan, which will inform more specifically what the City’s needs are. They are also investigating possible partnerships for the multi-family


“We will be able to say more when we know more,” added Misley.

Sisters Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Sharlene Weed said their $800,000 grant is “huge for Sisters Habitat and the town.”

“We are so excited about this award. We are grateful to the County commissioners for their support and to the Woodlands developers for working with us to make this happen,” Weed told The Nugget. “The Woodlands provided us with a letter of support for our application to the County.”

The $800,000 will be held in reserve until the purchase agreement for the 10 lots is official.

As part of the developers’ plan to provide workforce housing for Sisters residents, they have agreed to sell 10 lots to Habitat for significantly below market value. This especially helps Habitat continue to provide affordable housing because the inventory of any buildable land is severely winnowed, let alone lower-priced land.

The Sisters Woodlands Master Plan calls for the development to be built out in five phases, with Habitat for Humanity building two cottages in each phase, so that the Habitat cottages will be integrated throughout the community, according to architect Kevin Eckert. Eckert said he will be working pro bono with Habitat to design their cottages and then include them in the Woodlands permitting process so they will be ready to start building once the permits are issued.

According to the City’s cottage code, a cottage can be up to 1,250 square feet over two stories. Eckert said the cottages will be either two-bedroom single-story or three-bedroom two-story homes.

Habitat has two more homes left to build in the ClearPine subdivision at the northwest corner of town. They also have some lots left to build on in Village Meadows. The Village Meadows homes will be built using a $900,000 grant received by Habitat this past fall. That grant has a three-year time limit on it.

The $1.3 million dollars awarded in Sisters is part of $7.8 million to support affordable housing in Deschutes County. The ARPA investments approved by the commissioners will fund housing projects in Bend, La?Pine, and Redmond, in addition to Sisters.

“We are excited to be able to invest in creating 218 units of affordable housing for rent or home ownership for our residents,” said Commissioner Phil Chang. “These projects support both working families and employers in need of a workforce in Deschutes County as we face the challenge of rapidly rising housing prices together.”

Deschutes County will receive more than $38 million in total ARPA funds. The County received the first half of the funds in May 2021 and expects to receive the remainder of the funds next year. To date, commissioners have obligated $33 million in various ARPA investments.

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