Housing projects

Construction equipment clears ground at the site of MonteVista Homes’ Theater Park development on Monday morning.

COVID-19 has put a halt to many things, but housing development is still going strong.

Steve Wilson, principal broker for MonteVista Homes, said the company is still making good progress on its current developments in Hermiston.

“We’ve got about 170 homes we anticipate building in the near future, and we’re not slowing down,” he said.

The company continues to add homes to its longstanding Highland Summit project, and is currently paving the streets for the Theater Park community, which will feature 53 new homes off West Theater Lane near Geer Road. They are also in the engineering phase for Legacy, a 100-lot development off Punkin Center and Northeast Sixth Street.

Construction has been labeled an essential business in Oregon and allowed to continue during the pandemic. Wilson said customers who had prepaid for MonteVista homes were “thrilled” that the company had been able to maintain its construction schedule and finish their houses on time.

The company has had to make some adjustments, such as trading open houses for appointments with one family at a time, and sanitizing everything between each tour. Wilson said while fewer people are touring homes, sales are still steady.

“We’ve had very few lookers, and mostly people who just want to buy a house,” he said.

It might seem surprising that people are still making such a major purchase during a time of mass layoffs and economic uncertainty. But Wilson said interest rates have dipped so low they have put home ownership into reach for people who had previously felt it was out of their budget.

It has also made upgrading to a larger, newer home more tempting.

“People are being forced to spend a majority of their time at home with their family, and are recognizing that their current home doesn’t fit their needs,” he said.

Another planned development in Hermiston, Cimarron Terrace, is also moving ahead despite the pandemic.

Tanner Wideriksen, founder of VestCapital, said the newest phase of the development has built 38 of the 99 lots so far.

“COVID-19 has been an absolutely game-changer, and everyone has had to be innovative, but it has not precluded us from development of all of our lots as planned,” he said.

He doesn’t see the need for more housing in the greater Hermiston area going away any time soon, even with the pandemic.

“Hermiston is a very strong market right now,” he said. “It’s seeing a lot of growth in the private and public sector.”

Lloyd and Lois Piercy received approval from the Hermiston City Council in November for annexation and zoning changes needed for a planned 150-lot development on 36 acres at the intersection of Elm Avenue and Diagonal Road.

They’re planning a multi-use, walking-friendly planned neighborhood with single family homes, a few commercial buildings and duplexes and triplexes built to be accessible to senior citizens and others with mobility challenges.

Lloyd Piercy said May 8 that they still plan to proceed with the development, as long as things continue to work out with financing, labor and other pieces.

“These things are hideously expensive, and there are stumbling blocks along the way that can stop any development, but our intent is to go ahead,” he said.

He said they are still planning to pursue a housing project targeted more toward low income families in Stanfield, too.

Piercy agreed with other developers that there is still a need for more housing in the greater Hermiston area, and that need is unlikely to let up. He said no one knows for sure exactly how the pandemic and its economic impacts will continue to play out, however.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said.

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