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Lane County nonprofit creates mobile housing for wildfire victims

HOPE Board President Terry McDonald inside of the nonprofit's first new mobile housing unit.
Nathan Wilk
HOPE Board President Terry McDonald inside of the nonprofit's first new mobile housing unit, which is being sent to Southern Oregon. The single-wide model has a floorplan of 728 square feet.

A Lane County nonprofit has started building mobile homes at a factory in Eugene.

HOPE Community Corporation is an offshoot of St. Vincent De Paul of Lane County. It aims to create low-cost, energy efficient and fire-resistant housing on wheels.

“Low income families have very little access to affordable housing,” said HOPE Board President Terry McDonald. “Having a way for them to be homeowners is important, and we're trying to make sure that dream is possible.”

In 2022, the state legislature allotted $15 million for the project. But production fell far behind the estimated start date of last summer, as the nonprofit faced certification delays and seismic issues at its factory in Eugene.

Today, McDonald said the facility is almost completely retrofitted, and its first mobile home is complete. He said six more houses are in the production pipeline.

McDonald said the priority is to get housing to fire-affected areas. The first unit is being donated to a mobile home park in Talent, where houses were destroyed in the 2020 Alameda Fire.

In the future, McDonald said this mobile housing could also help replace aging mobile units, and become a purchasable option for low-income Oregonians.

“We have such a desperate housing need in this state. We need to have more housing across the board,” said McDonald. “We're just putting one little piece in place to help.”

Micah Damm (left) and Elijah Grose (right) first worked at factory through Lane ESD's vocational partnership. Now graduated, they've been hired on as full employees.
Nathan Wilk
Micah Damm (left) and Elijah Grose (right) first worked at factory as high schoolers. Now graduated, they've been hired on as full employees.

McDonald said the factory will scale up its production further once the entire facility is certified. Currently, each house needs to be individually approved for use.

He said the factory now has around 30 employees, but that may grow to around 100 people as production ramps up. As part of the recruitment effort, HOPE has partnered with the Lane Education Service District to provide vocational training for high schoolers.

Lee Kounovsky is a CTE Construction Trades Specialist with Lane ESD. He said some employers are hesitant to hire workers straight out of high school, but this partnership provides valuable resume experience.

“We can show them that 18, 19-year-olds are capable and ready to go,” said Kounovsky. “They've done everything they need to do for the basics, for the entry level positions that they're going into.”

Aidan Jones participated in that program. Now he’s graduated with a job at HOPE's factory.

“It's physically rewarding, because you get to see what you built at the end,” said Jones. “It's different than watching something on your phone or typing in a document. It feels more meaningful to me.”

McDonald said HOPE still has a comfortable reserve from its 2022 state funding. The nonprofit told KLCC it doesn't currently have an estimate of when the facility will be certified, but it will likely be soon.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.