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Young students trying to positively transform their lives will work together with construction experts to build and sell an affordable home in Prineville

PHOTO COURTESY OF LAURA HANDY
 - Sixteen-year-old Prineville student Tarma Nolan paints a project as part of the Heart of Oregon Corps YouthBuild program. About 75 Central Oregon youth will begin building a house in Prineville this spring.

A group of Central Oregon teens and young adults hope to break ground on a new home this spring in Prineville.

The Heart of Oregon Corps YouthBuild program is comprised of about 75 youth ages 16-24. Three of the participants in the program live in Crook County, although the program's executive director, Laura Handy, said they are working to increase that number.

The YouthBuild program is one of six programs Heart of Oregon Corps offers for youth development and workforce training. The program seeks to help youth transform their lives and roles in society through earning their GED, high school diploma or college credits while building affordable housing and learning new job skills.

"They spend half of their time doing hands-on construction skills training and certification on housing projects located in the communities they live in," Handy said. "We build anywhere from one to three homes a year."

The Prineville home will be built on Laurel Lane. The 1,170 square-foot home will feature three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The group plans to complete the structure by this coming December.

"It is right in the middle of an awesome neighborhood, really close to downtown and Crook County Middle School and public parks," Handy said.

The YouthBuild members will work under the direction and training of highly qualified construction staff that has been hired by Heart of Oregon Corps. These staff members include two construction trainers as well as a construction manager.

The home will be built energy efficient, Handy said, and will be sold to an eligible family that earns 80 percent of the area median income for Crook County.

"For a family of four, that is no more than $42,650 per year in the household," she said.

This home build will differ from previous projects in Prineville and elsewhere in Central Oregon as the YouthBuild program will serve for the first time as both the contractor and the developer of the project. In addition to building the home, the organization will be responsible for selling the property.

"We build some of these as volunteers on a Habitat for Humanity project. We build some of the homes as a contractor, primarily with Housing Works," Handy said. "This is the first project we are managing completely ourselves."

Handy characterized the change as a sustainability move for the YouthBuild program. She notes that Habitat for Humanity donated the land, which made it possible for them try out the model in a low-risk way.

"It is a model that other YouthBuild programs around the country use to help support the construction components of their program," she said. "The goal is to have steady worksite training locations for our youth that align with our program schedule."

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