A new site of affordable housing at 1205 E. Fifth St. is taking shape, thanks in large part to the Newberg chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The building process has started for a duplex that will house two single women, a first for the local organization as it continues its advocacy for and involvement in building affordable living spaces.
"This will be an attached duplex, lived in by two single women, and that just happened by the luck of the application," Newberg Habitat for Humanity president Rick Rogers said. "We have typically always had adults with children, a sort of family unit, and so this is the first time we've been able to build something for two single people in this way. Looking at demographic data, we discovered that women between the ages of 55 and 70 are at the highest risk of being homeless.
"These are two deserving women from the community who have been diligent in getting all their hours for the sweat equity portion of this. As of (Oct. 20), the crew was starting to lift walls for the first floor, so that is exciting. This beautiful weather has made it so much easier and we had over a dozen volunteers out at one point."
As is normally the process for Habitat, when they complete the project the houses will be sold to the two parties with zero interest mortgages, which will keep them affordable in perpetuity. Each one of the units has two bedrooms and Rogers estimates they are 700 to 750 square feet each, which is typical and efficient given the space Habitat had to work with.
This property should serve the needs of both future homeowners and Rogers noted that the project was funded in large part by a $130,000 grant from the Oregon Housing Community Services Division through a program called LIFT (Low-Income Fast Track).
"We purchased the property from a person who is a friend of affordable housing, and he and his wife sold it to us for a discounted price before we parceled it off for a larger lot," Rogers said. "Charlie and Elaine Harris sold it to us and were terrific partners in all this. The LIFT money allowed us to pay off the cost of the land and start to pay for some of the fees and materials that would otherwise be donated. It's been a big help."
Finding land is always a challenge for Habitat and Rogers emphasized that the organization is actively seeking other lands on which to build affordable housing. Those with land to sell may visit the organization's website: at newberghabitat.org.
One of the other challenges Habitat faces — something that applies to this project — is the pandemic, which can slow the process of acquiring land and building on it.
"There's been a bit of a delay, part due to COVID and part due to the permitting process," Rogers said. "Our objective is to always be building, but it's volunteer construction and two days a week, so things can get delayed. We paid less than market for this property, but we've had other deals in the past like a recent property we built that we had to pay back taxes. Most of the time, though, it's at a discounted rate, and that benefit is passed on to the people who live in these homes."
Volunteers are hard at work two days a week on the property, as is customary, and have a six-month timeline that runs through some of Oregon's wettest months. But rain or shine, Rogers said he and other volunteers are looking forward to the project's completion.
The volunteer construction supervisors are Norm Baer and Joe Shipman, who Rogers said have played integral roles in making sure things go smoothly. Other community partners have stepped up, as they have in the past, to donate time and resources to the endeavor.
"This is all 100 percent community supported," Rogers said. "We get very little outside money and local contractors here include Smith Excavating, Hampton Plumbing, Cox Electric and Bowers Concrete. We do it with the generosity of these subcontractors and the community with their time, money and materials."
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