New affordable housing units unveiled to help Oregon’s housing crisis

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 5:36 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It could be a key in helping solve Oregon’s housing crisis.

Friday, local leaders, including Gov. Tina Kotek and Senator Jeff Merkley, toured six prototype units called ‘Mass Casitas.’ They were designed by Hacienda Community Development Corp. and are still being assembled at Terminal 2 in Northwest Portland. The goal is to have them sent out to Madras, Portland, Talent, and Otis by summer for a test run. If successful, Gov. Tina Kotek said this could help reach her goal of building 36,000 new homes each year.

“The fact families have been identified and communities have partners on the ground ready to receive these homes speaks to what’s at the center of this work,” Kotek said. “Oregonians need homes; with this today we have another viable option on the table to get more homes in communities that need them.”

The houses look like traditional mobile homes made out of metal, but Mass Casitas are made out of Mass Timber. Leticia Cervantes is the innovation director for Hacienda. She said this material is lighter and more environmentally friendly to produce. The material is similar to plywood in that scraps of wood are compressed together and layered together. She also said, using wood gives a more homey feeling than a traditional mobile home.

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“You can perceive in the interior the sensation of being very warm,” Cervantes said. “So this is also something beautiful. One of our objectives is not just to build affordable housing but to try and build beautiful spaces for families to live in.”

The houses come in three sizes: studio, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom. Otis couple, Scott and Barbara Benedict will be moving into a two-bedroom Mass Casita. Their house burned down in Echo Mountain Complex Fire. They were at Friday’s unveiling and were able to see their new home for the first time.

“It’s very exciting,” Barbara said. “I’m just feeling so grateful.”

Since the fire in 2020, the couple has been living out of a camping trailer they bought with money from FEMA. It’s shelter, but not a permanent solution.

“It’s a little difficult to make sure that you’re warm and dry in a travel trailer because you don’t have the normal facilities you would have in a house,” Barbara said.

Scott and Barbara said they don’t know the exact date when they can move in, but they’re ready to start rebuilding their lives.

“It’s easy to lose hope but with everybody’s help and all of the donations people have given, it’s incredible,” Scott said. “It makes you feel really touched.”

To get the project started, the Oregon State Legislature allocated $5 million. When it comes to a future price tag of mass-producing individual units, Hacienda said they do not have a number yet.