Idaho developers launch affordable housing projects in Ontario

ONTARIO – Demand for affordable housing has prompted Idaho developers to start work on two major projects in the southern part of Ontario.
Mark Kelly and Pete Whitehead of Farmington Station LLC plan to install a 29-space RV facility and a 50-home mobile home park just off Southwest 5th Avenue near Norco. Preliminary work on the 8.5-acre project is underway.
“We have had property through different LLCs in Ontario that we own,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead and Kelly said they’ve owned the Ontario Mobile Home Park – next to the new development – for 10 years.
Whitehead said the new projects are spurred by a lingering, and growing, need.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in demand for affordable housing and owning mobile homes. We consistently get phone calls from people looking for places to live. So, there is clearly more demand than supply,” said Whitehead.
The RV park will include a gazebo and bathrooms with showers, said Dan Cummings, Ontario interim city manager.
“We believe the RV park is filling a need. With other communities we have owned in Ontario we consistently had to turn people away that were looking for RV space rentals,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said his firm will not have firm pricing for the RV park until later in the fall.
The cost of the RV and mobile home projects is “north of 3½ million,” said Kelly.
Both men said they were not sure yet if the mobile homes will be for rent, to buy or both.
“What we like to do is own the land and lease the spaces to people that buy their own homes,” said Whitehead. “We like to have pride in ownership. We are getting quite a few phone calls from local businesses asking so we know there is demand on the rental side but selling is our goal. But we may be renting initially,” he said.
Farmington Station LLC already bought 20 mobile homes for the park but they will need a series of upgrades and Whitehead said he wasn’t sure how much they will cost a buyer.
“Those 20 homes, we have about a million bucks, plus or minus, figured to get them marketable,” said Whitehead. The upgrades to the 20 mobile homes include new flooring and appliances, said White head.
“It (the cost) will definitely be less than the average single-family home and the goal is to make it extremely affordable with a reasonable payment,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said building mobile home parks is not something “a lot of developers will do just because of the time it takes to fill up a mobile home park.”
“There are other products you can build that can probably give you a better return on your money but there is such tremendous demand we were willing to wait for the investment to return on itself,” said Whitehead.
Whitehead said the mobile home park is “relativity low risk for an investment as far as the need for housing in that area.”
Kelly and Whitehead said they’ve faced several obstacles with their mobile home park plan. Inflation played a role as they worked to get construction going.
“Finding homes that are reasonably priced to put on the lots is probably the most challenging thing right now. We have 30 more to go and that could come from a combination of people who want to move their own home onto our new property or finding homes to purchase to move in to resale or rent,” said Whitehead.
Buying a new mobile home is cost prohibitive, said Whitehead.
“We have to be careful with how much we spend on a home to keep it affordable,” said Whitehead.
Kelly said they’d like to have the RV park and the mobile home park complete within the next year.
Whitehead said Farmington Station takes the long view when it invests. The firm, said Whitehead, looks at investments a little differently than other developers.
“When we run models and underwrite these, it is about us being there long term, managing the project. We are OK with smaller returns with less risk. We are not swinging for the fence. We are calculating a return based on a pretty moderate risk,” said Whitehead.
Kelly said assistance from the city helped pave the way for the two projects.
“Turnaround times were very acceptable and refreshing compared to some of the other jurisdictions,” said Kelly. Whitehead said the addition of the marijuana dispensaries in Ontario helped boost demand for housing.
“It really changed things,” said Whitehead,
Kelly said the agriculture industry also plays a role in the high demand for affordable housing.
“We get calls from ag producers looking for affordable housing for their employees,” said Kelly.

News tip? Contact Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM – Available for $7.50 a month. Subscribe to the digital service of the Enterprise and get the very best in local journalism. We report with care, attention to accuracy, and an unwavering devotion to fairness. Get the kind of news you’ve been looking for – day in and day out from the Enterprise.