Lane County project prepares to provide mobile homes for those displaced by wildfires

By Nathan Wilk (KLCC)
Oct. 30, 2023 1 p.m.

After repeated delays, a Lane County nonprofit says it’s nearly ready to begin building mobile homes.

The plan is to create low-cost and fire-resistant mobile housing. St. Vincent De Paul of Lane County is behind the project, along with an offshoot called HOPE Community Corporation.

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A prototype for a single-wide unit, which will be 715 sq. ft. and cost around $65,000. Meanwhile, a double-wide unit is projected at $111,000 for 1,320 sq. ft.

A prototype for a single-wide unit, which will be 715 sq. ft. and cost around $65,000. Meanwhile, a double-wide unit is projected at $111,000 for 1,320 sq. ft.

Joel Gorth / St. Vincent DePaul Society

Project leaders said this is for Oregonians who have lost their homes to wildfires, and is also in response to the state’s housing crisis.

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“Our hope is that it gives us an alternative to get housing out there that’s quality, energy efficient and affordable much more rapidly than it could be done otherwise,” said St. Vincent de Paul Executive Director Terry McDonald.

Now, mobile prototypes have been built, and organizers just need to finish preparing a factory in Eugene for building homes. But despite projections that the facility would be ready by this July, McDonald now says that timeline was too optimistic.

Instead, he said renovations to the factory hit a snag this summer, as some pieces had to be redesigned over earthquake safety concerns. He now expects to have the updated building materials in November.

According to McDonald, the factory is nearly ready otherwise, and he hopes to begin manufacturing homes in January. He said the operation will eventually create around 100 manufacturing jobs, but will scale up slowly at first.

“I’m trying to make sure that when this gets out into the field, it’s the right product, the right construction, and it’s not going to be something where you have to make up for errors on the way,” said McDonald.

McDonald said the delays haven’t affected the scale or sustainability of the project. It is backed by $15 million in funding from the state legislature.

“Generally, the affordable housing market is not one that people want to stay in permanently. They want to get into more lucrative areas,” said McDonald. “Having a not-for-profit dedicated to developing this type of product in the marketplace perpetually is a game changer.”

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