Cottages underway to provide housing for fire survivors
Work is underway to install a total of 15 modular cottages at two sites in Windsor and Fountaingrove nearly a year after October’s firestorm destroyed ?5,300 homes in Sonoma County.
The cottages will provide short-term, affordable housing for those who lost homes or were displaced after the most destructive blaze in California’s history, with some units expected to be move-in ready next month. The cottages ultimately will be turned into accessory dwelling units, also known as granny units, placed on properties with single-family homes.
Homes for Sonoma, a group of volunteer builders, architects and marketing professionals formed in the first week of the fire, Tuesday received its first 480-square-foot modular cottage, which will be on temporary display at a Fulton winery. The one-bedroom unit later this month will be installed, along with four others, on land on Old Redwood Highway in Windsor leased from a private property owner, said Aaron Jobson, a founder of Homes for Sonoma.
He said the project is important, especially for a county that lacked affordable housing prior to the wildfires.
“We’re facing an affordable housing crisis,” said Jobson, principal of ?Quattrocchi Kwok Architects. “People who are teachers, nurses, firemen, cops and (who have) all the other jobs that are important to the success and diversity of our community are having a hard time finding places to live.”
The cottages are expected to be move-in ready in November, with 20 applications already filed with Burbank Housing, which will manage the property. Monthly rent will be between $800 and $900, said Efren Carrillo, Burbank’s government and community relations director.
Homes for Sonoma is exploring other locations for cottages, and hopes to offer housing for three to five years, said Carrillo, a member of the group’s executive committee.
Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County will be installing 10 small cottages at the Fountaingrove campus of medical device maker Medtronic. A commemorative groundbreaking ceremony is set for Oct. 12.
Erik Kunz, Medtronic’s workplace development director, said 52 employees lost homes in the fire.
The project is a “piece of the puzzle” in providing affordable housing, he said.
Habitat for Humanity is rolling out four models of one- and two-bedroom modular homes, ranging in size from 480 to 750 square feet, as part of its pilot program, said John Kennedy, interim CEO and board chairman. Two of them were donated by Homes for Sonoma.
He said three cottages are being staged or constructed in a parking lot as the organization awaits site work and building permits, with approvals anticipated in the next week.
The units will be moved 100 feet and installed onto temporary foundations near a parking garage on the Medtronic campus in the next month, Kennedy said.
He hopes people can move in by late November, with the community populated by January.
The nonprofit will host a meeting this month to allow interested parties to apply for the units, which will be rented for two years at a rate that will be about 30 percent of the household’s income, he said.
Habitat for Humanity plans to install cottages at other sites. It’s looking at ways to collaborate with Homes for Sonoma.
“People who are working in Sonoma County need a place to live while permanent housing is being built,” Kennedy said.
Habitat for Humanity also is seeking to rent a warehouse locally to build components for prefabricated homes for the next two to three years, Kennedy said.
“Sonoma County realizes it’s losing employees and the clock is ticking,” Kennedy said. “It’s a race against time.”
The units in both projects cost about ?$100,000 each and are fully funded through donations.
Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore praised the effort to alleviate what he described as a “housing nightmare.” Those who were underinsured or didn’t qualify for fire assistance are “going through hell,” he said.