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Rent payments set to restart for Rogue Valley wildfire survivors

In January 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency installed a number of manufactured homes in Mill City following last year's Santiam Canyon wildfire. The agency installed similar units in Jackson County.

Hundreds of Oregon residents who lost their homes in the Almeda and South Obenchain fires are currently housed in FEMA trailers. Now, with few housing alternatives in the Rogue Valley and a slow wildfire recovery, these residents are being asked to pay market rate rent.

FEMA installed around 180 trailers after the devastating 2020 fires. The temporary housing was planned to be removed on March 15, so Oregon lawmakers applied for an extension. When that was approved, it came with a catch. Residents got letters a week-and-a-half ago telling them that they would be expected to pay market rate rent.

“For a two-bedroom, it’s about $1,100. It's more like $1,700 for a three-bedroom,” says Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland. “So it’s caused a tremendous amount of alarm and anxiety and sort of retraumatization among residents.”

Marsh says residents should begin an application for FEMA subsidies, which are priced according to individuals’ income.

“People who are at 50% of median income can get their rent decreased to as little as $50 a month,” says Marsh. “Which, I think we’d all agree, is probably manageable for everybody.”

Financial assistance is also being offerred by the Medford nonprofit, ACCESS.