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Aid makes manufactured homes more affordable

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneManufactured homes await installation at Medford Estates, one of the manufactured home parks burned by the 2020 Almeda fire.
Financial help available for 2020 wildfire survivors

The state of Oregon is offering financial help to Almeda and South Obenchain fire survivors that could take thousands of dollars off the cost of buying a manufactured home.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has a program that allows fire survivors to buy FEMA trailers they’ve occupied in the wake of the 2020 wildfires that tore through Jackson County and other parts of the state.

State Rep. Pam Marsh, who represents southern Jackson County in the Oregon Legislature, hosted an online forum earlier this week with guests who offered details on aid programs.

“Certainly the Almeda fire that swept through our community in September 2020 was especially devastating for residents who lost their homes in familiar and supportive manufactured home park neighborhoods,” she said.

Marsh said 18 Rogue Valley parks were largely or completely destroyed, leading to the loss of 1,500 to 1,700 manufactured homes and RVs.

“But a year after the fire, the manufactured home park sector is starting to rebound,” she said.

Marsh said state grants and incentives can make buying a manufactured home more affordable for survivors.

Many survivors lost homes that were less expensive than new homes being set up at rebuilt parks. If a park allows used homes to go in, many survivors are scrambling to find used homes they can afford.

Installation costs can add to the price tag, and some parks are making people pay for the costs of driveways and other infrastructure.

Many parks are charging $600-$700 per month to rent a space. Some parks are charging more than $200,000 for a new manufactured home.

If buyers aren’t careful, they could end up paying as much for a manufactured home and space rent as they would pay on a mortgage for a regular house. However, unlike a house, they will never own the land beneath their manufactured home.

The best place for fire survivors to start is ACCESS, a Medford-based nonprofit that opened the Center for Community Resilience to provide one-stop housing navigation services for 2020 wildfire survivors in Jackson County.

ACCESS helps wildfire survivors navigate their housing options, provides housing counseling, helps locate available housing and provides rent and deposit aid for renters as well as down payment help for those who want to buy a manufactured home or single-family house.

For general housing help, fire survivors can call the ACCESS Center for Community Resilience at 541-414-0318. For specific help to buy a house or manufactured home, call the ACCESS Homeownership Center at 541-774-4305. ACCESS can be reached via email at info@accesshelps.org.

Survivors can work with trained and certified housing counselors who can assess their situation and provide information and advice about options, said ACCESS Housing Director Joe Vollmar.

“There’s a lot of different housing options out there for people, and we want to help them navigate that, find out what the best fit is for them. And we will provide support in achieving their housing goals. We want to make sure that they’re successful in ending up where they want to be,” Vollmar said.

ACCESS is gathering information about manufactured home parks as they rebuild and have spaces available, he said.

One of the biggest sources of financial help is a state wildfire recovery pilot program that provides up to $35,000 for a single-wide home or $45,000 for a double-wide home.

“The funding is really intended to fill any remaining funding gaps,” said Chelsea Catto, manufactured home analyst for Oregon Housing and Community Services.

The money comes in the form of a forgivable loan. If the manufactured-home buyer stays in the home for 10 years, the loan is forgiven. If people leave before then, they pay back the money using the sales proceeds from the home, Catto said.

During the 10 years, people don’t have to make payments on the loan or pay interest, she said.

The program is for wildfire survivors who lost a manufactured home. Households income must be at or below the statewide median income, Catto said.

That equates to $56,800 for one person, $65,000 for a household of two, $73,100 for a household of three, $81,200 for a household of four and $87,700 for a household of five, she said.

The home must be a new, energy-efficient home or a used home built in 1995 or later that’s in good condition. The money can be used to help with the costs of buying a home and paying for delivery, installation and infrastructure. People can also use the loan to refinance a higher interest loan they got somewhere else, according to program details.

To learn more about the state program, contact ACCESS.

Energy Trust of Oregon is offering up to $10,000 for a single-wide home or $15,000 for a double-wide home to help people afford a more energy-efficient home, said Mark Wyman, senior program manager for the organization.

Homes with better insulation, energy-efficient windows, efficient heating and cooling systems and other features not only keep residents more comfortable, they reduce utility costs.

Wyman said people can combine the Energy Trust incentives with other aid programs as long as the total amount doesn’t exceed the cost of getting a home.

“However we can, we want to be a part of this journey and part of rebuilding,” he said.

The program will likely roll out in early 2022, but people can learn more in advance. People can reach the Energy Trust of Oregon Manufactured Home Replacement Program by calling 503-548-1635.

Energy Trust will also be working with ACCESS to help people navigate the program.

The Oregon Department of Energy is planning to offer incentives to rebuild homes and businesses in an energy-efficient way. For information on the state program and to sign up for email updates, visit www.oregon.gov/energy/Incentives/Pages/EEWR.aspx.

Another program still in the planning stages will provide grants to make homes and businesses more resilient to fire through a process called fire hardening. Fire hardening includes using fire-resistant siding, roofing and windows.

The state program is for people whose homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed by 2020 wildfires in Oregon.

For more information and to sign up for email updates, visit www.oregon.gov/bcd/pages/firehardening.aspx.

Oregon Housing and Community Services, the Housing Authority of Jackson County and developers are teaming up to buy vacant land or existing manufactured home parks to create affordable parks.

The goal is to provide manufactured homes that are affordable to buy, plus offer space rent that is affordable and predictable long-term, said Housing Authority of Jackson County Executive Director Jason Elzy.

Negotiations are underway to secure sites, he said.

“We’re working around the clock to make sure we’re putting all the pieces of the puzzle in place to bring this project to Jackson County,” Elzy said.

The team is working with ACCESS to help people learn about the project, he said.

The nonprofit Community and Shelter Assistance Corporation of Oregon hopes to help people join together to form a few resident-owned manufactured home parks in Jackson County.

The organization has converted 20 manufactured home parks into resident-owned cooperatives in Oregon, said Rose Ojeda, a project manager with the group.

The group is in talks with at least one manufactured park owner and is also looking for undeveloped land, she said.

For more information, see casaoforegon.org.

FEMA has a sales program in which people living in a FEMA trailer can buy it if they wish. They may be allowed to keep the trailer at its current site, or they may be required to relocate the trailer.

FEMA has set up trailers at several sites in Jackson County.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Survivors of 2020 wildfires in Jackson County who live in FEMA trailers are being given the option to buy their trailers.

The initial price offer by FEMA will be based on the estimated fair market value of the trailer. People who can’t afford to buy a trailer can appeal the price, but no trailer will be sold for less than 25% of its fair market value, according to FEMA rules.

Upon completion of a sale, the household will no longer be eligible to receive FEMA housing assistance for the 2020 wildfire disasters. People who buy their trailer will become responsible for paying space rent if they live at a manufactured home park.

If an applicant chooses not to participate in the sales program, it will not affect their eligibility for further housing assistance, according to FEMA.

Trailers are sold as-is, with no warranties.

Eligible people will receive a letter about the FEMA purchase program. Survivors living in FEMA temporary housing can also reach the FEMA program by emailing fema-dr4562or-sales@fema.dhs.gov.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.