Inside a sprawling warehouse at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 2, a potential solution to ease Oregon’s housing shortage is swiftly taking shape.
Workers are assembling six prototype modular homes using Oregon-produced mass timber that will soon house pre-selected families and individuals in four communities (Madras, Otis, Portland and Talent). Led by Hacienda CDC, the pilot project (among the first of its kind in the nation) aims to demonstrate how modular housing built with mass timber could provide a more efficient, faster and less expensive way to build housing. The pilot was spearheaded by $5 million in funding from the Oregon Legislature.
On Friday, Hacienda offered a first look at the prototype homes, called Mass Casitas, to city and state officials, including Oregon Governor Tina Kotek and Senator Jeff Merkley, community leaders, and the media at the Port of Portland’s Marine Terminal 2.
“We need more homes now to address Oregon’s urgent housing crisis, and traditional systems alone will not be enough to get the job done. Mass Casitas is innovative because we’re combining mass timber with modular single-family home construction to develop a process that could help Oregon add more high-quality housing, faster,” said Ernesto Fonseca, CEO of Hacienda.
State economists have said that Oregon has a shortage of 110,000 housing units for current residents at all income levels. To accommodate future growth, the state may need to build more than 580,000 homes by 2040. The greatest need is among residents with the lowest incomes.
“I was excited to advocate for $5 million dollars to support this vision in its infancy, and I’m thrilled today to see its first major step forward. The Mass Casitas project is proof that, together, we can act with the urgency people across our state are demanding. Bold ideas, concrete solutions, disciplined follow through. That’s how we can deliver results,” said Kotek.
The vision of Mass Casitas extends beyond housing, Fonseca said. With additional public and private investment, the model has the potential to accelerate the growth of Oregon’s mass timber industry and create new jobs — and in the process, help to revitalize former logging communities and increase economic opportunities for Oregonians, especially in rural communities and communities of color.
Visitors who toured the Mass Casitas production site on Friday saw the six prototype homes under construction. Once complete, the homes will be donated and delivered to nonprofit organizations in four Oregon communities by June 2023. The nonprofits will select which individuals and families will live in the homes.
The six prototype homes (which range in size from studios to 3-bedroom models) are headed for these four Oregon communities:
- 1 home is going to Madras (Jefferson County); partner is Casa of Oregon
- 1 home is going to Otis (Lincoln County); partner is Cascade Relief Team
- 2 homes are going to Portland (Multnomah County); partner is Community Vision
- 2 homes are going to Talent (Jackson County); partner is Casa of Oregon
Following delivery of the prototypes, the Mass Casitas team will monitor how the homes perform in different climates and their utility to residents, using what they learn to improve the design, inform the production process and assess the potential of creating the units at scale.
"Mass Casitas is helping transform Terminal 2 into a site for innovation, mass timber industry transformation, and opportunity for Oregon families," said Keith Leavitt, chief trade & equitable development officer at the Port of Portland. "This project is even more evidence that mass timber can be transformative for Oregon, and it's full of opportunity for those who have been left behind, from new housing options to the creation of good-paying jobs along the timber and housing construction supply chain."
During the December 2021 special session, the Legislature allocated $5 million for Mass Casitas to the Port of Portland, which is providing the warehouse space and fund management and partnered with Hacienda, the housing organization leading the project. Other key team members are: Salazar Architect Inc. (design), Walsh Construction Co. (general contractor), VALAR Consulting Engineering (engineering), and Freres Engineered Wood (mass timber supplier/expert).
Source: Hacienda CDC