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New housing complex located near Legion Park planned for farmworkers and general workforce

COURTESY RENDERING: FHDC - Colonia Unidad will be the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation's first housing complex for both agricultural workers and members of the general workforce. FHDC hopes the combination of housing options will allow for more upward mobility in farmworking communities.The construction of a new low-income apartment complex in Woodburn could begin as early April 2018, according to the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, the nonprofit organization that is developing the complex.

The 44-unit housing development, located near Legion Park, will be a combination of workforce and farmworker housing. It will be called Colonia Unidad and is planned for a city-owned lot located at 1750 Park Ave., about a block south of Highway 214. Construction is expected to take a year.COURTESY RENDERING: FHDC - Pictured is a site plan for Colonia Unidad, which is planned for a city-owned lot near Legion Park.

The Woodburn City Council in November 2015 authorized city staff to enter into an option agreement with FHDC for the sale of the property. The terms of the agreement included a purchase price of $350,000, with the stipulation that the city of Woodburn abandon the unused well located on the property and remove associated well equipment, both at the city's expense. The cost to the city was estimated to be $17,000.

In 2015, FHDC contracted with an engineering firm to conduct a traffic impact analysis and it was estimated the development would generate 300 daily trips. City staff concluded that there would not be a significant disruption to area traffic patterns as a result.

As part of the agreement, FHDC was required to conduct an environmental site analysis, remediate any discovered environmental contamination and remove any existing structures. An initial assessment of the site in 2015 found several containers of hazardous waste onsite and the potential risk of contaminated soil since the site served as a garage/maintenance area for 25 years.

That original option agreement gave FHDC until Aug. 31, 2016, to sign a purchase and sale agreement. When FHDC was unable to secure funding for the project before that deadline, it asked for an extension until April 30, 2017.

In April of this year, FHDC announced it had secured financing for the project from Oregon Housing and Community Services. It still needed additional time to complete the environmental review, so the city agreed to extend the option expiration to Nov. 30 and to extend the financing contingency to Dec. 31.

This summer, FHDC has been working to restart the design development phase of the project and finalize the architectural and construction design. Once that and the environmental review are complete, the plan is that FHDC will exercise the option agreement, the city will abandon the well and remove equipment, and FHDC will remediate any identified environmental hazards.

Once that's done, FHDC can close on the purchase of the property and begin construction.

Colonia Unidad will be the first FHDC complex in Woodburn to include general workforce housing (rather than housing only for agriculture workers) and the first FHDC complex to include a combination of the two kinds of housing. Fifty percent of Colonia Unidad's housing units will be set aside for agricultural workers and their families, while the remainder of units will be available to all qualifying low-income families.

FHDC's two current housing developments in Woodburn — Nuevo Amanecer and Esperanza Court — are both for farmworker families only.

"The building will house both of them," said Maria Elena Guerra, FHDC executive director. "It's an opportunity for a family working in farm labor that may have decided to jump to a different business to remain housed."

According to a project description of Colonia Unidad from FHDC, this will "allow more flexibility for adults to move and advance from agricultural work into other careers, while still allowing them to live within their community and support network."

The development was originally named Park Avenue Apartments. The name change came about this summer, and according to Guerra, was a result of the current political climate. Colonia Unidad can be translated to "Community Unity," according to Guerra.

"We felt that was the perfect name due to the political climate that is pushing civilians and races against each other," Guerra said. "We wanted to send a message that we in Woodburn remain united against any attacks to culture or race."

Funding has been secured for the project from Oregon Housing and Community Services through its tax credit programs, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity, the Agricultural Worker Housing Tax Credit, the Low-Income Weatherization Program, the General Housing Account Program and the HOME Program.

Through the same allocation of funding from Oregon Housing and Community Services, FHDC also secured funding for a renovation project at Esperanza Court, a 20-year-old, 12-unit apartment complex in downtown Woodburn. The rehabilitation will focus on building envelope improvements, ventilation and some interior work.

That project is expected to begin soon after the construction commences for Colonia Unidad.


Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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