A 70-unit townhouse project is set to be completed on property behind the Motel 6 in northeast Ontario. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons).

ONTARIO – A plan to build a 70-unit townhouse complex in the northeast part of Ontario received a big boost earlier this month when the state approved a $5.3 million loan for the project.

The project is the biggest affordable building venture in the city in the past 40 years, said Dan Cummings, Ontario Community Development director.

The development will “take a little bit of a bite” out of the city’s shortage of housing, said Adam Brown, Ontario city manager.

“Our shortage is at all levels. So, this will start to help the housing crisis,” said Brown.

The Fruitland investor group Nascosto is behind the $11 million project while Home First Development, a Portland company, will oversee the development.

The development will be built on a 6-acre parcel behind Motel 6 on Lincoln Avenue.

“It is really exciting. We can’t wait to get going,” said Ben Pray, owner of Home First Development.

The project will be funded with a $5.3 million no-interest loan from the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department, a $300,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust, private funding and state tax credits.

Pray said the idea for the project came in 2018 when Barb Higinbotham, Community in Action executive director, approached his firm.

“She kind of had a consortium of folks trying to find answers to the pressing need for affordable housing,” said Pray.

Higinbotham said building relationships with people like Pray over the years helped steer her to Home First Development. She said the company also was experienced in building affordable housing in rural areas. Recently the company finished a 20-home project in Hines. 

“We really needed to work with someone who had the ability to pull something like that together. They were a really nice fit for this project,” said Higinbotham.

Pray said Ontario Townhomes development will consist of 32 two-bedroom, 950-square-foot units and 38 three-bedroom units at 1,150 square feet.

“We want people to know this is quality housing. Quartz countertops, washers, dryers and they will be very efficient so utility bills will be low,” said Pray.

Pray said the townhouses will be grouped into blocks of four or five buildings and will include outdoor recreation areas, a sports court, community room and 128 parking spaces.

“The key aspect is they will be rented affordably,” said Pray.

The project is tentatively scheduled to break ground in May 2021, according to Pray.

“We will use as many local sub-contractors as possible,” he added.

Cummings said the city is already at work rezoning the 6-acre parcel from heavy commercial to high-density residential to make way for the project. The rezoning must be approved by the Ontario Planning Commission. Cummings said officials hope to be able to submit final paperwork on the rezone proposal to the commission at its Sept. 14 meeting.

“Families can live there. It will be very versatile for people in the community,” said Higinbotham.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-235-1003.

KEEP THE ENTERPRISE GOING AS OTHERS CLOSE.....

Reader support allows the Enterprise to provide in-depth, accurate reporting that otherwise would not get done. Keeping the community well informed is essential. SUBSCRIBE - $5 a month, automatically. DONATE - to provide additional support.