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

Mill City could get tiny-home village

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Marion County may be building a tiny-home village in Mill City to provide temporary housing for wildfire survivors after a similar project in Gates fell through due to unexpected cost increases.

Marion County commissioners brought the issue before the Mill City Council in September, and as of press time the two parties were still discussing a potential agreement.

This development would replace a planned tiny-home village at the former Oak Park Motel, on Central Street, in Gates. Though the county had been working with Oregon Housing and Community Services since June of 2021 to build tiny homes at the site, estimated project costs have nearly doubled from $2.3 million to $4 million and the county was forced to look for alternatives.

A second tiny home development planned for North Santiam State Park, called Santiam Cottages, remains under way, and a Sept. 9 letter from county commissioners to Mill City said the project is “looking promising.”

Around 170 local residents are still without permanent housing after the Santiam Fire devastated the area on Labor Day of 2020. While the county expects many residents will be able to return to the area after planned apartment complexes are completed in Mill City, those housing developments may not be finished for a matter of years and the county wants to provide a temporary option for residents to relocate.

The planned tiny homes would be around 400 square feet and include spaces for a kitchen, living room, bathroom, master bedroom, possible bunk beds and a porch, with multiple floor plan options being considered.

The potential move to Mill City would involve a site currently used by FEMA for temporary housing along Remine Road. Though FEMA is currently leasing the property from the city, it is possible they could sublease to Marion County for the tiny-home project, or the lease could be allowed to expire and a new lease approved with the county. 

FEMA’s lease is currently set to expire at the end of November. The agency has no official long term plans for the location.

Marion County said one advantage to using the Remine Road site is it already has utility access and would not contribute to Mill City’s current low sewer capacity. They also said those moving into the tiny-homes would all be Santiam Canyon residents.

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