In about a year, a new nonprofit Eugene organization hopes to breathe new life into a former steel mill by hiring more than 100 workers to make mobile homes for low-income families.
Housing Options Production Enterprise Community Corporation (HOPE) has big plans.
It will be the manufacturer, working with St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County, who will act as the seller. At full capacity, the RV production line will be able to complete two to four homes per workday, employees said. They believe it is the only non-profit RV manufacturing facility in the United States.
HOPE was formed to address the housing shortage for low-income Oregon residents, particularly the thousands whose homes burned in the 2020 wildfires.
It is a staffing shortage that could not be met by the industry, which was already ill-equipped to serve low-income Oregonians who cannot afford or access replacements for aging modular homes after their useful lives have ended.
Lane County’s St. Vincent de Paul executive Terry McDonald is ambitious. He also serves as President of HOPE and wants the organization to make affordable, energy efficient, fire resistant, high quality homes while also creating good local jobs for the team making them.
“The goal is to hit a home run,” McDonald said Friday at a news event at the nearly empty facility. “The idea is to keep the cost of these units down by vertically integrating the entire process from start to finish so we can make it the most affordable, durable, and energy efficient product we’ve seen in the state.”
He hopes to work with training programs in the area to give students like those in high school career and technical training programs and Lane Community College the opportunity to learn in a production environment and potentially launch their careers.
St. Vincent de Paul will also take care of its own work programs such as: B. Supportive Services for Veteran Families, which help move participants out of poverty and homelessness towards stability and self-sufficiency.
86,000 apartments too few
The project was started with $15 million in help from the Oregon Legislature.
Oregon is 86,000 units short of the affordable units residents need, estimates nonprofit housing policy advocacy group Up for Growth in its 2022 report on US housing underproduction
State Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said the shortage is closer to 110,000 to 140,000.
She secured state funding for this endeavor and introduced House Bill 4064, which prohibits local governments from banning manufactured structures in residential areas.
Her district lost 2,500 homes, mostly prefabs and RVs, during the 2020 Almeda fire. Few of these houses have been replaced.
“It’s really difficult to design prefabricated houses,” Marsh said. “So what do we do about it? We’re doing what Terry McDonald envisioned – we’re going to start making prefabricated houses.”
HOPE’S FIRST PRIORITY
McDonald said the first priority for HOPE is to begin production of two traditional mobile home layouts that are most needed by low-income buyers: a 2 bed/1 bath, approximately 800 square feet wide; and a 3 bed/2 bath, 1,300 square feet doublewide.
The homes go to organizations and people who buy them across the state.
Engineering and early phases of site work have begun at the West Eugene facility, located at 888 Garfield. Construction is scheduled to begin on December 1st and production on July 1st.
Before manufacturing begins, St. Vincent de Paul will open an “as-is” thrift store and donation center on site this fall. It will occupy approximately 15,000 square feet of additional space in front of the future HOPE manufacturing facility.
If the project goes well, the facility will be a home for many years to come and serve as a model for the rest of the country.
Ultimately, HOPE hopes to then move on to its next mission: multi-bedroom, multi-bath “Quint” or “Quad” units serving programs to provide transitional housing for vulnerable people across the state – similar to the St Vincent de Paul recently built to house a sobriety residential program for women, the Phoenix House.
More: St. Vincent de Paul opens Phoenix House
“I think the need is pretty much eternal,” McDonald said. “Such products are needed everywhere.”
Contact reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick at [email protected] or 541-521-7512 and follow her on Twitter @TatianaSophiaPT.