Talent celebrates opening of affordable housing aimed at wildfire survivors

By Jane Vaughan (JPR)
Nov. 30, 2023 6:36 p.m.

On Wednesday, the City of Talent held a grand opening for 72 new apartments.

Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood cuts the ribbon to signify the grand opening of Renaissance Flats on Nov. 29, 2023.

Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood cuts the ribbon to signify the grand opening of Renaissance Flats on Nov. 29, 2023.

Jane Vaughan / JPR

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Residents started moving into the Renaissance Flats apartments in early October. The complex has a mixture of two- and three-bedroom apartments, as well as a clubhouse.

The new housing is especially important for the city that was devastated by the 2020 Almeda Fire. Individuals who lost their homes in the Labor Day wildfires were prioritized for the apartments.

Juan Rocha lost his home in the Almeda Fire and recently moved into Renaissance Flats with his three children. He said he appreciates the accessibility of the neighborhood.

“It’s very nice, especially [because] I have my three kids with me. So it’s good because I have everything here, even they can walk, and they can go anywhere, I have the park, and I have everything here, all the stores,” he said.

Danny DiFrancesco with developer Commonwealth Development Corporation said 20-25 of the apartments are already occupied, and there’s high demand for the rest, with a waitlist.

The majority of funding for the project came from state agency Oregon Housing and Community Services. DiFrancesco said the developer recently received additional funding from OHCS and hopes to soon break ground on another multifamily project in Phoenix called Pacific Flats.

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About 70 to 80% of the new residents are from the local Latino community, which was hit particularly hard by the fires.

Since 2020, the region has worked to rebuild the lost housing, but not always with success. This summer, the state found that dozens of modular homes meant for fire survivors in Phoenix were uninhabitable.

Attendees on Wednesday were grateful that this project came to fruition.

“It’s an exciting day. It’s been a long time. We, the folks in this room, understand now all too well how long recovery takes,” Alex Campbell, chief external affairs officer for OHCS, said Wednesday.

Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood highlighted the number of fire survivors that are still waiting for permanent housing, over three years later.

“While we talk about this great effort and grateful to each other about how we are working so hard to rebuild, we have a faithful community out there, waiting in hotel rooms, in RVs, waiting to come home,” she said. “That’s their dedication to our community. That’s their love of their home.”

At the grand opening, Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said it’s been a hard three years for the region.

“But today is the kind of day that I just have this jolt of joy in my heart, and I just feel hope washing over the room. And that’s really because these are the very first units that we’re opening that are publicly supported, the very first multifamily project that’s come back since that awful day in September of 2020,” she said.

Rep. Marsh offered a blessing for the families living there who, she said, will raise children there, celebrate there and grieve there.

She offered bread, “that these homes may never see hunger,” salt, “that life may always have flavor,” and apple cider in lieu of wine, “to ensure that joy and prosperity will reign forever.”

The entrance to Renaissance Flats in Talent.

The entrance to Renaissance Flats in Talent.

Jane Vaughan / JPR

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