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Grape Street townhouses likely bought for homeless

Eight vacant townhouses, built in part with a city of Medford grant meant to promote home ownership among low-income families, will likely be sold to serve as permanent housing for the homeless.

Rogue Retreat, a Medford-based nonprofit, plans to buy the properties from the Medford nonprofit Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation to provide housing for homeless individuals and families, and will provide support services to help them improve their lives.

"It is a good thing for the community," said Chad McComas, board chairman for Rogue Retreat. "We are taking houses that have just been sitting empty. These units will be available to people who normally don't have the opportunity to rent."

The houses at the intersection of 11th and Grape streets have been sitting vacant for more than a year because RVCDC was unable to find qualified low-income buyers.

A $45,000 city grant meant to provide affordable housing helped pay for the construction of the houses.

In November, the Medford City Council granted a request by RVCDC to change the terms of the grant to allow the houses to be rented instead of sold.

At the time, Medford nonprofit Interfaith Care Community had intended to buy the houses using a state grant and turn them into subsidized rentals for veterans and their families.

Interfaith had been awarded a $870,000 grant from Oregon Housing and Community Services to help buy the townhouses and provide support services.

That sale fell through after Interfaith was given an interest rate on its loan significantly higher than expected, and the nonprofit learned it would not be able to sell the property for any use other than low-income housing for 40 years under the grant terms.

"It was kind a risk for us," said Interfaith executive director Sharon Schreiber. "The board decided it was not a good move for us at this point, It's kind of a shame, but I am a believer that things happen as they should, and Rogue Retreat will do very well there."

OHCS was able to transfer the grant, called Housing Plus, from Interfaith to Rogue Retreat, said Louise Dix, city neighborhood resource coordinator. The bulk of the grant will go toward paying the mortgage on the townhouses.

Rogue Retreat will receive about $208,000 from OHCS over four years to help defray the cost of providing rental subsidies and support services.

Rogue Retreat already operates long-term housing for the homeless at 525 N. Riverside Ave.

McComas said each tenant at the 11th and Grape property will have a caseworker who will help identify things the tenant needs to do to improve his or her life, such as counseling, drug or alcohol treatment or job placement.

Tenants have been found for the townhouses, and there is already a waiting list, he said.

"We are not just talking about people who sleep under bridges," McComas said. "It could be a lady who has escaped a domestic-violence situation and has two kids and has no job, no rental history of her own and has lived in the Dunn House. It could be a person with an alcohol or drug addiction or a person with a lot of eviction notices."

The sale is expected to be finalized by the end of July, and tenants would move in immediately after that, McComas said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.