Sometimes trying to solve one crisis opens the door to tackling another one.
Habitat for Humanity’s Sonoma County, Calif., chapter, in partnership with renowned designer Marianne Cusato, has launched the Sonoma Wildfire Cottage Initiative to provide relief to families displaced by last fall’s wildfires in Northern California.
The “learning laboratory” pilot program will have eight to 10 “state-of-the art” temporary cottages to showcase innovative construction technologies that in the short-term will provide temporary housing for uprooted families and in the long-term will offer affordable housing for the community.
John Kennedy, board chairman and interim CEO of Habitat Sonoma County, said in a statement that the organization was looking into new ways of cutting building costs and increasing affordability for buyers prior to the wildfires. “This project helps us quickly evaluate technologies [for the future] while simultaneously helping families in dire need of stable, temporary housing.”
Connect Homes, GigaCrete, and West Coast SIPs were selected by Habitat to build the cottages, while Cypress Community Development, a nonprofit specializing in disaster recovery housing, has been tasked with overseeing the development. Berkeley, Calif.-based Opticos Design is the master planner.
Cusato has worked on similar housing relief projects in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Irma. But, she explains, this project will also function as a laboratory—“to use the political will and capital that comes after a disaster to create a model to resonate well beyond the immediate need for disaster housing to this larger need”—for more financially attainable housing.
The cottages will be temporarily located on Medtronic’s Santa Rosa campus, with expected completion in the fall of 2018.