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Developer, builder and lending institutions join forces to give first-time buyers ... New homes in White City

WHITE CITY -- Home building here is about to take on a whole new flavor.

In the next few months, buyers priced out of other areas will start to see new homes they can afford -- in the $90,000 to $120,000 range.

The 1,100- to 1,500-square-foot homes are part of Clear Sky Estates, the first subdivision here in 24 years that is not a trailer or manufactured home park.

Work on Clear Sky Estates kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday with a ground-breaking ceremony for the 58-unit affordable housing development off Falcon and 25th streets. Depending on the weather, construction could start in 30 days.

Dave Freel of Eagle Point is the developer. Tom and Tommy Malot of Central Point are the builders. Western Bank is handling the development and construction financing, and its parent company, Washington Mutual, is arranging the mortgage lending.

This isn't just a construction project to all of those involved. They say they want to create more affordable homes for first-time home buyers and add a strong sense of community to the unincorporated area. They also hope to attract more quality home building.

Brad Webster, assistant vice president of Western Bank, said the bank realizes the importance of home ownership.

We feel it's our job to go the extra mile to assist the developer and builder in getting this project to fruition, he said.

As you get more involved with this, it's contagious, he said. It's a great idea.

Freel said he hopes the project creates a precedent.

If this project is successful, it will set the tone for future development for White City, he said.

No longer will White City be looked at as the mobile home park capital of Southern Oregon. It will be looked at as a place where entry-level housing can be built at an affordable cost and it will make sense to do it.

Freel first considered building a mobile home park, but after talking to Cathy Conlow of the Urban Renewal Agency for Jackson County, he changed his mind.

He said Conlow was persuasive, as was past and planned investment of the agency in new streets, lights, a park and other community improvements.

Freel and Conlow, with support from the county commissioners, agreed that if the agency improved 25th Street to county street standards, that Freel would develop a stick-built subdivision.

Another key to his decision was the vote by White City residents for the sheriff's levy for the unincorporated area and their support of efforts to clear away abandoned cars.

That tells you a lot about the people there, he said.

Once he made up his mind, his main concern was finding a builder with a reputation for quality work.

That's where Tommy Malot came in. Tom Malot Real Estate and Construction had recently completed building 11 duplexes on land developed by Freel in Central Point.

Malot, 33, and vice president of the family business, said the project was a great opportunity to provide housing close to the growing job base in northern Jackson County.

It also gave the family a chance to help people realize their dream of owning a home. He said he will be using some of the development's profits to help buyers with their down payment, contributing up to — percent of the purchase value.

Some families could conceivably move into a home with $500 or less, with help from several financing packages available from Washington Mutual and Malot's contribution.

He also just hired seven Boise Cascade employees, laid off because of the Labor Day fire, to work on the White City project.

Conlow, who has been steadily working to improve the area's law enforcement, infrastructure and community capital projects, suggested the stick-built subdivision because residents said they wanted a way to move up in White City.

It provides another level of housing, which all communities need, she said. I think a lot of other developers are going to look at it and say, `we can do this and be successful.'

Clear Sky Estates will add 58 homes to the White City skyline. It'll be the first frame-house development there in nearly 25 years. - Photo by Bob Pennell