3D Housing Project Removes Obstacle: Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Affordable housing project planned for west Medford will feature 3D printing technology

A rendering shows the layout of part of a subdivision of 3D-printed homes proposed for survivors of the Almeda Fire in west Medford. [Artwork from newspiritvillage.org]

The Titan Robotics 3D printer extrudes a layer of cement while building exterior and interior walls of a structure. The technology will be used to build a housing project in west Medford that could break ground later this year. [courtesy photo]

An affordable housing project that includes 3D-printed homes for wildfire survivors in west Medford has cleared a major hurdle with the city.

City planners and the developer recently reached an agreement to widen Vick Lane.

“It’s no longer a street to nowhere,” said Barry Thalden, president of New Spirit Village Inc.

He said Vick Lane would extend from the back of his 84-unit project on Meadows Street to West Eighth Street.

“That was the hurdle we had to overcome,” Thalden said. “It took longer than expected.”

The $20 million project, located on a six-acre site, would include one-, two- and three-bedroom single-family homes, designed to be energy-efficient, fire-resistant and capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions and earthquakes.

The 3D printed walls are formed by robotic technology that scoops a cement mixture from a nozzle, creating walls that look like a layer cake.

The pilot project has caught the attention of IMAX, which contacted Thalden to produce a video describing the 3D process and to interview some of New Spirit’s potential owners.

Thalden said the video will be made available to science centers around the world.

New Spirit is designed specifically for survivors of fires and other disasters, with a two-bedroom home that would cost about $185,000 and require no money down, with mortgage payments of less than $1,000 a month.

According to Zillow, the median home price in Medford is $416,267.

Thalden said the deal to widen Vick Lane will cost him $234,800, which will add an estimated $2,700 to the cost of each home.

Thalden said it is able to offer the homes to qualified buyers at an affordable price thanks to $5.5 million in grants, the largest being a $4.3 Oregon LIFT (Local Innovation and Fast Track) grant.

“That’s what makes these homes affordable, and they don’t require money,” Thalden said.

Prospective homeowners still have to qualify for a loan, and ACCESS and the United Way are already finding fire survivors and others who might be eligible.

“This is for working families,” Thalden said. “Usually their only option is to rent.”

He said there are still 200 fire survivor families living in FEMA trailers or local hotels.

Thalden said he will submit plans to the city in two weeks to obtain the necessary permits to begin construction.

He said he hopes to start in November, depending on how long the licensing process takes.

Thalden said there are a number of unique features to this project, including the use of fire-resistant material with 3D concrete.

He said the 84 units would provide affordable property for people who would otherwise only be eligible for rental housing.

“Many families have been shut out of the American dream,” he said.

The project’s design is community-driven, he said, and will meet the needs of larger families. About 200 children are expected to live at New Spirit.

After discussions with the local community, Thalden said his company will now add garages to the units because a vehicle is often one of the most valuable things a family owns.

New Spirit has four bus stops within two blocks, and there are two supermarkets, a convenience store and a Walgreens nearby.

The units will have front porches that provide a clear view of neighbors and create a sense of security, Thalden said.

Parties can be held at the New Spirit Community Center or nearby Lewis Park.

The project is also being designed for permanent affordability.

Instead of buying the house and land, the owner will only own the house. The land will be held in trust, and its rights can be passed on to children and other family members.

If a house is sold, the owner would receive the price of the house plus a portion of the appreciation. Thalden said this Proud Ground idea in Portland helps ensure the units remain affordable.

“It’s always going to sell below market,” he said.

There will also be an association of owners to ensure the maintenance of the common areas and the landscaping of the streets.

The Thalden Foundation is a non-profit corporation established and directed by Kathryn and Barry Thalden. New Spirit Village is a non-profit sister foundation.

Thalden said the Vick Lane issue took a year to resolve, delaying the start of the project.

“We’re making progress,” he said. “It’s going to be a fabulous project.”

Contact freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.

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