Sisters Woodlands partners with Habitat for Humanity


Last updated 8/1/2023 at 9:34am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Habitat for Humanity houses will blend with the other houses in the Sisters Woodlands development.

In what looks like a first-of-its-kind partnership, Sisters Woodlands, a 300-plus mixed-use community under construction in Sisters, is partnering with Sisters Habitat for Humanity to build affordable homes for low-income dwellers.

There is no affordable housing requirement in the City's Development Code when permitting large-scale projects like Sisters Woodlands. Some projects, such as ClearPine, included affordable units in its master plan as a negotiated provision with the developer.

Designating the lots to Habitat was not a requirement for Sisters Woodlands Development (SWD) group, but a voluntary election. Ten cottage lots will be integrated throughout the development as part of their final master plan approved by the City last year.

Whereas most Habitat homes are generally clustered together, the ones in Sisters Woodlands will be built randomly in the various phases of development. Anybody driving down the street will not know a Habitat home from the others.

Sisters Woodlands Development, CS Construction, the general contractor, and BUILD LLC, who have designed the project, have expanded on their commitment to Sisters Habitat and more affordable housing stock in Sisters.

BUILD LLC, led by Kevin Eckert, designed the Sapling cottage model - both three-bedroom and two-bedroom versions - probono, at no cost to Habitat. They also obtained City of Sisters approval and Deschutes County building permits for the first two Habitat cottages at Woodlands, and plan to continue this method for the remaining eight.

The developers came to terms with Habitat, selling them the first four lots, including survey, material procurement, excavation, backfill, foundation, and utility prep, at approximately half the market value of the lot with those initial improvements.

Funding for the purchase of the lots comes from Deschutes County's redistribution of funds from ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act). Of the $1.3 million Sisters received, $800,000 goes to purchase the 10 single-family units in the Woodlands project. Some $500,000 was reserved to support the expansion of affordable workforce housing in Sisters, with additional funds provided by the City.

"These investments help to support important projects that will improve housing accessibility and home ownership opportunities in Deschutes County," said Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair. "It is essential that we continue to work with partners across the region to support housing options for Deschutes County residents."

To date, commissioners have obligated $33 million in ARPA investments, including $25,000 allocated to Sisters Park & Recreation District to allow the District to serve 30 to 40 additional children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. Last year, the program had a waitlist of more than 60 families.

Habitat's hands are full with commitments at Village Meadows, where crews currently are busy building three homes. CS Construction stepped in and agreed to complete the full building envelope for the first two Habitat Homes at Woodlands. This work includes framing, underfloor mechanical, plumbing, windows, exterior doors, weatherproofing, siding, and roofing.

CS Construction is donating their own staff time, as well as providing their administration of the builds at no cost to Habitat - writing off their own costs and overhead. Further, CS has worked with its vendor pool to significantly discount this work, saving Habitat 40 percent of the costs for building shells.

This will allow Habitat to take over with interior work this winter following their completion at Village Meadows. Besides SWD, CS, and BUILD, nine vendors have given generously in terms of donated materials or discounted labor: Miller Lumber, Jesse Ford Construction, Fine Finish LLC Siding, Sisters Garage Door, Sweeney Plumbing, Stone Roofing, Pella Windows, Pioneer Millworks, and Deschutes Window & Door.

Peter Hoover, interim executive director of Sisters Habitat for Humanity, expressed gratification at the way it all came together.

"This is such an amazing contribution of talent and community goodwill," he said. "We couldn't be more grateful, or in awe of such generosity."

Eckert, speaking for the consortium, was equally thankful for the accomplishment.

"Everybody stepped up right away. There was no pressure. It just felt right for everybody involved," he said.

Eckert recently sold his home in Pine Meadow Village, and will move his family to Woodlands as part of his commitment to the project. He regrets that the original goal of more affordability at Sisters Woodlands could not be met in the face of rising construction costs and borrowing rates.

"The partnership with Habitat is an important mix in our community housing vision," he told The Nugget as he reviewed the plans and locations for the Habitat units.

He's now turning his attention to ways in which Sisters Woodlands can assist in designated affordable housing for teachers.

School Superintendent Curt Scholl projects a potential teacher shortage in Sisters in the next five years, exacerbated by high home ownership costs in the District.


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