A new 10-lot subdivision is in the works on Sunset Drive across from the Sunset Cemetery in Ontario. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Preliminary work on a 10-lot subdivision in east Ontario is underway and the new venture could offer a unique way for lower income residents to buy a home.

The five-acre subdivision – on Sunset Drive just across from the Sunset Cemetery – will be developed by Chelsey and Andrea Warrington.

“We just bought it this summer and as soon as we bought it we paid for an engineer and said we are going to push forward,” said Chelsey Warrington.

Warrington, the city, Euvalcree, a local nonprofit, and Agile Homes also want to collaborate on the venture to help area residents buy their first home.

Gustavo Morales, Euvalcree’s executive director, said he plans to seek a grant from Oregon Housing and Community Services Department to allow the nonprofit to help reduce cost on a new home by up to 20% and qualify low-income families for a homeowner’s mortgage.

The agency has several programs that serve those living at or below 80% or 60% of an area’s median income.

Malheur County’s area median income is $57,500, according to the agency.

No cap has been set for potential applicants to the Ontario project, but families would have to make at least $35,000 a year to qualify, said Morales. Potential homebuyers would have to complete education and homeownership courses.

Morales said the grant would allow for a pilot project of 10 homes to be completed in 2021, and an additional 50 homes to be built over three years.

Morales said the emphasis on single-family homes is intentional.

“Stable housing is one of the biggest factors in a student’s success, social and health outcomes,” he said.

He added that the idea is to help low-income families develop assets and focus on long term investments to help them strengthen their futures.

“We want to see strong and stable families that are thriving in a place they call home,” he said.

Agile Homes co-owner Craig Smith said his firm would help with the new homes as well.

“Typically, people get a construction loan and have to do financing during construction but we would finance that part so they could just buy the whole package at the end,” he said.

Dan Cummings, Ontario community development director, said the subdivision is part of an ongoing effort by the city to develop affordable housing.

“This is something we and the city manager have been working on for years,” said Cummings. He said the city is “working with a couple of banks to get people pre-qualified.”

Warrington said if the plan works, it would be a “win-win.”

“We got involved and we do a lot of work with Agile and they do work with Gustavo and it seemed, hopefully, like a good thing to do,” she said.

The key, she said, will be to keep the cost of the three-bedroom, two bath homes at around $170,000.

“Once you get up a little bit higher, people don’t want to buy them,” said Warrington.

Warrington said work on the subdivision would proceed even if Euvalcree can’t acquire state funding.

“We have enough capital to go ahead,” he said.

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