News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Gates to get 16 tiny homes at motel site

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

By James Day

A 16-unit tiny home village will become a reality later this spring in Gates.

The development, part of continuing relief efforts from the devastating 2020 wildfires in the Santiam Canyon, involved the contributions of Marion County officials, Gates officials, the Santiam Service Integration Team at Santiam Memorial Hospital, a Salem manufacturer and the state of Oregon.

“It is super cool,” Marion County Commissioner Danielle Bethell told The Canyon Weekly. “Government doesn’t always work this fast. I’m elated that we are getting people started down the road into permanent housing.”

Ron Evans, who owned the Oak Park Motel in Gates, also played a role, donating the temporary use of his heavily damaged property for the tiny homes, which are expected to be in operation for three to five years.

Bethell said that the community should start seeing activity at the site by mid-March, with residents occupying the new units by summer.

The project will cost approximately $2.5 million, Bethell said, with the state Legislature providing the funds. The Marion County Housing Authority will manage the facility and work with the SIT team on screening the applicants.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will take care of the final regulatory hurdles, the building permits and a water pollution control facility permit for the development’s new septic system. All of those steps are required before construction can begin.

The Gates City Council paved the way for the state work by approving a code variance on the use of the property at its Jan. 20 meeting.

“The work being done to recover the Santiam Canyon has been a tremendous and emotional lift for all,” Bethell said. “The support from the city of Gates for this temporary housing site goes to show the flexibility and desire to recover as quickly as possible and bring survivors back to their communities, where they can begin to heal together. I am grateful to Mayor (Ron) Carmickle and Mr. and Mrs. Evans for bringing this concept to fruition.”

The tiny homes will be 380-square-foot structures built by International Housing  Concepts of Salem. The units will have porches, a loft/storage area, electricity and heating.

Fire survivors who live in these units will have the ability to work with a variety of service organizations that will assist them in finding permanent housing in a rental or ownership capacity. 

The Canyon Weekly toured the International Housing Concepts factory on Tuesday and viewed models under construction that are similar to those that will be constructed for the Gates project.

Brent Roush, general manager of the company, said the firm specializes in “park models,” which are one size step below a manufactured home.

International Housing donated a tiny home so the folks in Gates could see what his firm had in mind then “we put together a bid. We have a great relationship with Marion County. They were very helpful throughout.”

Roush and his crews are just waiting for the final regulatory and land preparation work to conclude before they start to build. The process works like a classic assembly line, with the 16 units “coming off the line one after another” at a rate about about three per week.

“We’re proud of what we do here,” Roush said. “Tiny homes are growing in popularity and this is all we build. We’re trying to be community-oriented here.” 

And the work continues. Bethell said the county and its partners also are working to put together a 16-home project at the North Santiam State Recreation near Lyons. Organizers are hoping for a mid-winter opening there. 

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