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

Canyon gets $12M in state housing funding

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

In one of the largests individual infusions of wildfire recovery funding to date, $12 million is coming to the Santiam Canyon.

Marion County has signed an agreement with Oregon Housing and Community Services for the funding, which is part of the $150 million in funding approved by the Legislature as part of House Bill 5006, a supplemental state budget appropriations measure that took effect July 1, 2021.

“This is likely the biggest news for Santiam Canyon wildfire recovery efforts since the fires were put out,” said Deana Freres, board president of the Santiam Long Term Recovery Group.

“These funds were allocated specifically for wildfire recovery by the Oregon Legislature nearly 2 long years ago.  Our Marion County Commissioners’ relentless advocacy to OHCS to finally release $12M of these funds means Santiam Canyon survivors who lost their home can actually access the money to complete their recovery goals.”

The Marion County Board of Commissioners will work with the Santiam Canyon Long-Term Recovery Group to use the new funds to assist primary homeowners that are currently without permanent housing because of the 2020 Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires. 

Grant funding will be available to get residents “across the finish line” and into permanent housing or, for some, to begin rebuilding their homes on their way to recovery.

OHCS has restricted the funds to families whose income does not exceed 120 percent of the area median income. The median household income in the Canyon is approximately $68,000.

Thus, 120 percent of that figure, or the maximum allowable under the program, would be $81,500.

The income level required for the funding proved to be a challenge during discussions on terms between the county and the OHCS, said Danielle Bethell, Marion County commissioner. 

“We have been in discussions with OHCS since April of 2021 on these funds,” she said in a press release issued Tuesday by Marion County. “It has been a long and grueling process. Originally, OHCS only wanted to serve up to 80 percent AMI (approximately $54,500), which was not and is not sufficient for our neighbors in the Canyon. Our persistence is paying off and we will be able to help far more of the remaining wildfire survivors get back into permanent, stable housing.”

Guidelines and an application process still are being finalized by Marion County.

Approximately two-and-a-half years after the Labor Day 2020 fires, there are still nearly 100 households trying to return home, Marion County officials said. Those households include residents of both Marion and Linn counties. 

The Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires scorched 400,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,500 structures and virtually leveled Detroit and Gates, with Mill City, Idanha and Lyons suffering moderate to extensive damage. Five people were killed.

County officials said that they expect the program to be able to serve most of those 100 households that are currently being case-managed. The main exception will be for those that are specifically restricted because of their income level. 

 “I could not be more proud of the Marion County team who has worked on this effort and I am looking forward to seeing families return to their homes and find some peace in their lives again,” Bethell said.

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