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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, October 22, 2012, 6:55 am

Blu Homes and Homeward Bound partner on affordable Novato project

$1 million from foundation helps make 14-unit ‘Oma Village’ possible

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    NOVATO — Blu Homes, a Vallejo and Massachusetts-based manufacturer of energy efficient, prefabricated homes, has entered into an agreement with Homeward Bound of Marin to construct a $4 million affordable and supportive housing project in Novato.

    Oma Village in Novato

    The 14-unit development will provide stable, supportive housing to homeless families in Marin. (rendering courtesy of Blu Homes)

    It is the first multi-family affordable project for Blu Homes (bluhomes.com, 866-887-7997), which hopes to address a wave of increasing demand by constructing a second assembly line in its 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Vallejo by the end of the year, said Dana Smith, a spokeswoman for the company.

    The “Oma Villiage” project, at 5394 Nave Drive, was made possible in part by a $300,000 grant and more than $1 million in financing from the Marin Community Foundation. Fourteen compact one- and two-bedroom homes are planned at the site, providing stable and supportive housing for low-income families working their way out of homelessness through either employment or education.

    The project will replace a former 30-bed substance abuse rehabilitation center operated by Henry Ohlhoff House Programs, which was shut down in 2005 due to economic constraints and has since fallen into disrepair.

    “We can transform that property into something that can serve as a model for how to help the homeless in our community,” said Mary Kay Sweeney, executive director of Homeward Bound

    Expected for completion in fall 2013, the project will include a staff-managed community space with computer learning and training facilities, an outdoor kitchen area, ongoing support from Homeward Bound staff and a number of environmentally friendly construction elements. Rents will range from $500 to $600 per month, compared to a fair-market rate of $1,905 per month for a two-bedroom apartment in Marin County, according to Homeward Bound.

    The structures are expected to be based on Blu Homes’ “Origin” model, Ms. Smith said. The homes will be partially manufactured in Vallejo and, like the company’s other models, folded for transportation to the project site. Final construction is completed at the site.

    Blu Homes, which currently has more than 200 employees, completed its first round of institutional investment in September, a $60 million investment from Netherlands-based Skagen Group. The funding brought the total amount of investment to nearly $69 million since 2008.

    With the new investment, Blu Homes plans to bolster its effort to become a “one-stop shop” to help customers through the permitting and construction processes. The company also recently announced its ninth and largest model, the Sidebreeze.

     Other supporters of the project include the County of Marin and the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and private donors.

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