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Officials break ground for affordable housing at Almeda Fire site in Phoenix

A line of people in white hard hats are holding shovels with gold-colored blades. They are holding a mound of dirt on the shovel as they get ready to throw it in front of them.
Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
State, county and local partners break ground at the site of the new Royal Oaks development in Phoenix

Construction has begun at a manufactured home park in Phoenix that burned down during the Almeda fire. The new park will be run by the county housing authority.

A state-funded project to bring back affordable housing in the Rogue Valley broke ground this week. The communities of Phoenix and Talent were both hit hard by the 2020 Almeda Fire, and manufactured home communities suffered significant damages.

The state purchased 140 modular home units in June of last year to help with reconstruction, but didn’t have a place to put them.

Modular homes are different than manufactured or mobile homes. Instead of following building codes set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, modular homes must follow the same local building codes that a traditional stick-built home would. The homes are partially built in a factory and are permanently assembled on site.

“Frankly it was harder than we thought it might be to even identify land," says Oregon Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland). "Everything needed to be cleaned. Nobody was willing to sell property until it had been cleaned.”

Using state funding, the Housing Authority of Jackson County was finally able to purchase the former site of the Royal Oaks Mobile Manor in Phoenix.

The rebuilding of the park will provide housing opportunities for 118 families. The new development will prioritize families who lost their homes during the fire.

“Because of the work that ACCESS is doing with wildfire survivors, we [already] partner together to help navigate the fire survivors," says Joe Vollmar from the local nonprofit ACCESS. "We may already be working with them so we can just navigate them into these units as they come available.”

The housing authority will manage the park, and will focus on keeping it affordable. New residents who move into Royal Oaks will be given titles to their homes at no cost, but they will need to pay rent for the space and utilities. Residents are free to sell those homes in the future when they move, but Marsh says there may be limitations to keep the park affordable.

Marsh says she’d like to see more projects like this one implemented, to provide more affordable housing and an easy path to home ownership.

Vollmar says they're still working on an application process for the park. Construction is expected to finish in the second half of next year.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.