A rendering of a planned cottage cluster on Market Street to serve low-income seniors. (Courtesy/ United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley)

A planned tiny home project that expects to offer low-income seniors affordable rent cleared a big hurdle Monday night when the Salem City Council voted to sell city-owned property to the nonprofit intent on developing it.

The city has agreed to sell property on along a stretch of Market Street N.E. for $120 to United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley to develop seven housing units each under 400 square feet.

The project has been in the works for years and aims to offer rents that a senior relying on Social Security income could afford.

Low- income seniors are the fastest growing population who are at-risk of homelessness due to economic insecurity. United Way said the average senior in Oregon receives $1,450 per month from Social Security.

“If you look at an average person getting by on social security, it is very clear some of our most vulnerable citizens cannot sustain making month to month payments at that level,” said Liz Schrader, chief development officer.

The goal is to offer the houses, which are called “cottage clusters,” for rent at less than $450 per month.

Schrader said they haven’t determined which seniors will be offered the housing and needs to determine who would be most successful in that setting.

She said for each house to be affordable, each home should cost less than $60,000 to build.

Brent Neilsen, chair of the affordable housing committee at United Way, said a cottage cluster is defined as a group of 12 units under 700 square feet on a lot that’s 7,000 square feet or larger.

“Picture several small units around a common courtyard,” he said.

Neilsen said the nonprofit is starting the process to make zoning changes to the land that’ll allow the development.  He was unsure how long the process would take.

Rhonda Wolf, CEO, said there are senior citizens who retired without a  pension or retirement funds and live on limited income.

“Our goal is to provide a safe and affordable place to call home for as long as they can live independently” she said in a statement.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] 

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