Sonoma County needs a lot of affordable homes, and soon it will have a sizable factory dedicated to turning out such housing rain or shine.
Tim Leach, Sonoma County Habitat for Humanity’s new chairman, announced Friday the nonprofit has signed a three-year lease agreement with SOMO Village, pending a final review by Wells Fargo Bank, for 65,000 square feet of indoor manufacturing and outdoor storage space at 1500 Valley House Drive, Suite 100, Rohnert Park.
The factory, called The Habitat Center, will be an industrialized residential construction and trades training campus. The center will build wall panels and other components for 111 new homes by 2021 using volunteers supervised by experienced trade workers.
The projected production forecast for this zero-waste factory includes building key parts for 15 new Habitat homes this year, followed by 36 in 2020, 60 in 2021 — ramping up to an average of 70 homes annually thereafter.
This center is modeled after similar Habitat for Humanity manufacturing operations in Georgia, Colorado, and Edmonton, Canada. Habitat’s new component factory will have an estimated annual budget of $500,000 and could be self-sustaining in about three years.
The lease is for portions of Building 1500 at SOMO Village includes 33,500 square feet of interior space on the first floor with high ceilings, two large access doors and loading docks. Another 32,500 square feet of fenced space in the adjacent parking area will be converted to store building materials, supplies and finished panels under an overhanging roof.
This initiative is in addition to five other Habitat home building projects underway or in planning stages at Sonoma Wildfire Cottages (nine homes on Medtronic property for fire survivors); Somerset Place in Santa Rosa (10), Green Valley Village in Graton; (two homes started this spring); Duncan Village (groundbreaking in July for 16 affordable homes in Windsor) and Harris Village, a four-home subdivision in Santa Rosa completed in March.
Harris Village was the first local Habitat project to use manufactured wall panels fabricated by Habitat for Humanity construction staff and volunteers during a successful test-of-concept trial of this technique.
Habitat has more than 300 other homes in various pre-development stages at sites in Healdsburg, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and in the Larkfield/Wikiup area, representing half of its 600-home target for 2025.
“Compared with most conventional stick-building construction methods – that involves putting everything together on site — this process places us on the brink of revolutionary change that includes software-drive design incorporated into advanced construction technology applied before sitework begins to accelerate the development timetable,” said Tim Leach, who became chairman of Habitat’s Board of Directors on May 1. “The future of building is here. We’re creating innovative homes for humanity.”
Prior to Habitat, Leach spent 40 years in the banking and finance sector working for a number of Wall Street companies as the chief investment officer for the following banks: US Bank, US Trust Company (now the wealth management division of Bank of America), Wells Fargo Bank and ABN Amro Bank (USA).
He grew up in a construction family and became a licensed general contractor before an initial career on the business side of the agricultural industry. He earned a BS Degree in Ag Science and Management from UC Davis in 1977 and an MBA Degree with an emphasis in finance from UC Berkeley in 1992.