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Farm worker housing goes up on Jefferson Street

Canyon East Apartments

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - On Friday,  a crew from 7 Peaks Paving, of Bend, finished up the paving on a section of Jefferson Street in front of the Canyon East Apartments. The apartments, for low-income farm workers, should be finished in August.

Local farm workers will have more housing options by the end of the summer, when the Canyon East Apartments open their doors just off the newly paved Jefferson Street.
   Qualifying workers will be able to receive rental assistance for spacious two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments in the 24-unit complex.
   "What we're doing right now is a preapplication process," said Keith Wooden, director of development for Housing Works, the Central Oregon Regional Housing Authority, which has coordinated the project.
   Within the next couple of weeks, Housing Works will run applicants through the eligibility and screening process. "When the process is done, we want people living there," he said.
   The project was first considered after city and county officials toured the area in 2003, and saw dilapidated trailers and a failed sewer system. Housing Works became involved in 2004, and put together funding in 2005 to purchase three properties to change the face of the neighborhood.
   The city annexed the properties and extended sewer to the area, but it took five more years for Housing Works to secure partners and funding for the $3.2 million project, which broke ground in September 2010.
   "The city's very supportive of it," said Nick Snead, Madras Community Development director, who has been working to ensure that the project proceeds smoothly. "It clearly fulfills a need for the community, and it certainly improves the quality of housing for this segment of the community."
   To be eligible for the apartments, applicants do not need to be full-time farm workers, but must live in the area, and make a minimum of $4,500 per year from farm labor.
   Rent is based on income, which can be up to 80 percent of the area's median. For example, a family of four can earn up to $46,000 per year.
   The two-bedroom units are 919 square feet, and rent for $555; the three-bedroom units, 1,276 square feet, $615; and the four-bedroom units, 1,553 square feet, $$695.
   "These are big units," said Wooden, explaining that USDA Rural Development is the primary financer of the property and provides rental assistance.
   Demonstrating the need for the apartments was also part of the process.
   "When we applied for these funds, part of the application requires a market study to be done," said Wooden. "A market analyst looks at the demographics of the community and figures out how many units could be absorbed in this community."
   "A lot of farm labor housing is very poor quality housing; this provides them with a high-quality, safe place to live," he continued. "Our mission is to provide dignity through housing and this meets that."
   The Canyon East Apartments will feature a community room with a kitchenette, couches and a television, a separate computer room with Internet access, a playground, and a half-court basketball area.
   "It's a place for people to hang out," said Wooden, who expects that the community room will be used for family events. "It's a big space."
   In addition to meeting income requirements, applicants must meet residency requirements. "They either have to be a citizen or a legal resident," he said. "They can't have a temporary permit to live here."
   Wooden encouraged those interested in the apartments to call 541-410-1875, and fill out a contact form. "We'd love to see if they fit," he said.