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Housing Authority, state buy home park for fire victims

The Housing Authority of Jackson County has purchased the burned-over Royal Oaks manufactured home park, a 21-acre site north of Phoenix, for $6 million with a state grant to provide home sites for Almeda fire victims.

“The development of Royal Oaks is for the purpose of home ownership,” said Jason Elzy, authority executive director. His organization is working on an agreement with the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department to assist with securing homes for residents. It is too early to speculate on timelines for the Royal Oaks project, he said.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The Housing Authority of Jackson County purchased the Royal Oaks moble home park to provide homes for fire victims.

About 120 modular homes will be placed on the site. The housing authority intends to remain as owner and operator for quite some time and will partner with OHCS and other providers to ensure long-term affordability, said Elzy.

“We utilized a grant from Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services, which was authorized by the Legislative Emergency Board in response to the Almeda fire,” said Elzy. “We are pretty early in the process.”

Another $5 million out of $25 million awarded by DAS to the housing authority will be used for rebuilding the site. Use of the remaining funds to assist with housing in the county has yet to be finalized, Elzy said.

Further Royal Oaks details will be available when the housing authority and OHCS finalize plans and details through an intergovernmental agreement, said Elzy. The two groups have been through several versions of the agreement already, he said.

“There are uncertainties with redevelopment of the manufactured home parks because they are private and investor-owned parks,” said a statement from OHCS. “The goal is to acquire parks where there are willing sellers and secure the parks with public funds to ensure affordability for returning homeowners.”

OHCS had contracted to purchase 140 modular units when delays in securing manufactured homes emerged as the pandemic slowed the supply chain at the same time a number of homes were lost in wildfires.

A total of 120 of the OHCS homes will be coming to Royal Oaks and are under construction in factories, said Elzy. Details as to how ownership of the units will be implemented will be worked out in the intergovernmental agreement, he said.

The housing authority will work with the ACCESS Center for Community Resilience to provide marketing, outreach, homebuyer assistance and referral services to potential homeowners. ACCESS established the center to provide housing case management after the Almeda fire.

“Access will be helping find survivors and navigate them into these units,” said Joe Vollmar, housing director with ACCESS. Potential purchasers would work with the ACCESS home ownership team to meet the eligibility requirements.

ACCESS has a homeowner’s center that has helped people for many, many years to achieve home purchase, said Vollmar. The agency can provide a lot services to help the purchasers.

“We are looking to qualify buyers who are looking to purchase a unit and to ensure they can be successful in that project,” said Vollmar. “It’s a great opportunity for us to collaborate. A lot of this is still really early on.”

There will be community long-term recovery groups and culturally specific community service organizations that the housing authority will work with, said Elzy. They will help to ensure outreach and services to the Latino community with an emphasis on equity, according to wildfire.oregon.gov.

Housing authority design and engineering teams are working on an application for development of the site. The application will be submitted to Jackson County, because the area is not within city limits.

Site development will require full reconstruction of the park, including utilities, paving, concrete, landscaping and covered parking.

“I believe there are a few different processes because it was a former manufactured park lost in the fire, but I can’t speak to the specifics. Our application to the county will be following the guidelines,” said Elzy. He said the site had been cleaned after the fire in coordination with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

“We will be utilizing fire-smart, fire-resilient standards in the site plan application,” said Elzy. Plans call for a community center building, which will have a site office inside. Extra parking spaces will also be created.

The agency began looking for a site for such a project shortly after the Almeda fire, Elzy said.

The housing authority provides nearly 1,500 affordable homes throughout the Rogue Valley. It also has a home repair loan program for homeowners and administers 2,100 housing choice vouchers. ACCESS has developed more than 200 affordable housing units, and its housing program includes rental assistance and certified Housing and Urban Development counseling.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.