2003: Building year for Housing for People

By picking up hammers, wrenches, and shovels during 2003, eight Hood River families will earn the “sweat equity” needed to live in affordable homes.

Eight more families will follow suit in 2004, all thanks to a $300,000 grant awarded to Hood River’s Housing For People, Inc. (HOPE) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development department.

The technical assistance grant will enable HOPE to handle administrative costs needed to oversee the construction of 16 low-income homes in Odell.

“We’ve been striving to do this for the last 13 years,” said Richard Sassara, executive director of HOPE. “The difficulty was finding property in Hood River, which is hard to do for low-income housing.”

The 25-lot Anna Acres subdivision is nearly ready for construction, which should begin around Jan. 13. Families will provide 65 percent of the labor, or 35 hours each week, creating “sweat equity” that will be used as their down payments. Each family works on eight homes at once, and no one moves in until all residences are complete.

“Most of the work is labor intensive — roofing, framing, and flooring,” said Sassara. “They won’t be doing finished plumbing or things like that.”

HOPE is turning to local subcontractors for the specialized labor.

“All of the subcontractors have really sharpened their pencils to make this cheaper,” said Sassara. “I can’t say enough about our local subcontractors. There’s been a genuine outpouring.”

Sassara emphasized that the Anna Acres subdivision will not solve Hood River’s housing situation.

“We want to focus on apartment housing, too,” said Sassara. “We have over 100 families on our waiting list. People need to be aware that we still need affordable housing in Hood River.”

For more information about HOPE and its programs, visit: community.gorge.net/hope

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