Sonoma Wildfire Cottages construction begins in Santa Rosa

GARY QUACKENBUSH
FOR NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL 

Construction has started on eight to 10 Habitat for Humanity cottages that will be temporarily located on Medtronic’s Fountaingrove campus in Santa Rosa to help house residents whose homes were destroyed in the October 2017 wildfires.

Over 400 attended the groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 12. John Kennedy, interim president of Habitat for Humanity and chairman of the board, told the audience that this project is designed to test the construction industry’s most innovative building technologies to see how these processes can scale for the future.

“With what this initial project will teach us, we plan to build 600 new homes over the next six to eight years so that very low to moderate income families can have affordable housing,” Kennedy said. “This process has given up an opportunity to learn a tremendous amount about how to build safe and resilient structures that are cost-effective to construct and maintain over time, efficient to operate and designed so occupants can live large.”

“We’re all part of an active solution to what happened last year,” said Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore to the audience.

He referred to a poll of area residents that suggests three primary worries: housing costs, cost of living and homelessness. Average family income is $67,000 ($55,000 for Hispanic families). But the average cost of houses is $585,000, and it takes $125,000 to qualify for a home loan.

“This disparity effectively deletes 77 percent of our population who can not afford to live here,” Gore said.

He noted that the public sector has provided about 90 percent toward recovery, from sources such as FEMA, community development block grants, property tax backfill policies. California Assemblymember Jim Wood was instrumental in obtaining $1 billion for vegetation management, Gore said.

“Everybody wants to know what’s next,” Gore said. “Your vote counts at the polls in November for the housing bond rebuilding effort and to restore our infrastructure. We can all use our resources to help revitalize the North Bay.”

A long list of partners, donors and supporters were recognized at Medtronic groundbreaking event. Company Senior Vice President and President Sean Selmon and Facility Operations Manager Eric Kunz thanked those who provided grants to make this project possible. Those include the Safeway Foundation, Rebuild Wine Country, State Farm, Google, and partners Redwood Credit Union Community Fund, the office of Sen. Mike McGuire and The Press Democrat.

In addition to contributing the use of its land, the Medtronic Foundation donated $100,000 to advance Habitat’s relief efforts in Sonoma County. The Rebuild Wine Country team raised $1 million toward a goal of $5 million for the Sonoma Wildfire Cottages and other rebuild activities by Habitat organizations in the North Bay. Together RCU, McGuire and The Press Democrat provided a $150,000 grant.

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Ashley Cummins