Robert Ortiz, Boise, works on the foundation of what will become a portion of a 70-unit townhouse project in Ontario. The $11 million venture is scheduled to open sometime in the fall of 2022. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

ONTARIO – Work on a 70-unit townhouse complex in northeast Ontario is moving ahead and it could be open for area residents by next fall.

Home First Development LLC, a Portland company, is developing the $11 million project that is seen by many officials as a good, first step to boosting the area’s affordable housing inventory.

“We are around 20 percent complete and I believe we just starting framing,” said Ben Pray, owner of Home First Development.

The project is on a six-acre parcel on Northeast 3rd Avenue between Motel 6 and the Ontario Bottle Drop Redemption Center.

The project is funded through a zero-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.

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

Pray said Ontario Townhomes 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.

Work is also going forward on a $16 million project to transform Presbyterian Community Care Center into 56 affordable rental units.

The project is spearheaded by Northwest Housing Alternatives, a Portland non-profit.

The two projects are the result of a unique cooperative effort that stretched across local agencies, people and outside firms such as Home First Development and Northwest Housing Alternatives.

The Malheur United for Housing Task Force, a coalition of local public and private agencies, also helped kickstart the new housing projects.

The task force consists of Lifeways Behavioral Health, Community in Action, the Oregon Department of Human Services, Euvalcree, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario and Valley Family Health.

Barb Higinbotham, Community in Action executive director, said both projects are crucial to a long-term plan to create more affordable housing for Ontario.

Higinbotham said the location of Ontario Townhomes is a benefit.

“You can live there and walk to work. Everything is right there,” she said.

Higinbotham said the housing task force “worked hard to get here.”

“It’s time we had some nice, affordable housing in our area. This, I think, is just the start,” said Higinbotham.

The Ontario Home Incentive Program also proved to be unusually successful this year, according to Cummings, who said 22 homeowners used this program since Jan. 1.

“We are used to doing four to five homes a year,” said Cummings.

Since the program began in 2018, 41 buyers used the incentive program.

The program provides a $10,000 for a new owner-occupied home. The homeowner or the builder have two years to build the home and the structure must be 1,600 square feet or larger and owner occupied. The homeowner can’t be in any other kind of loan assistance proem. The applications are reviewed by the city’s business loan fund committee.

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

Previous coverage:

Coalition of non-profits investing more than $37 million in Malheur County affordable apartments.

Construction permits peak in Malheur County

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