By editorial board • 

Better housing times return with designs from past years

We are buoyed at the resurgence of the housing industry, and we can think of no better way to celebrate locally than developer Alan Ruden’s visionary Return to the Past development.

In November 2008, the real estate industry collapsed under the weight of unsound loans traded in massive blocks that hid their deep flaws. The housing and lending industries folded, pulling down every other element of the economy with them.

McMinnville was unable to escape the hammer blow. As Publisher Jeb Bladine noted in an April 2012 column:

“From 1975 to 2007, single-family housing starts in McMinnville averaged 125 per year, with highs of 265 and 255, respectively, in 2003 and 2004.

“Those decades of strong housing starts tanked in 2008-09, when the city issued just 28 single-family permits. The next year’s total of 40 tied the previous record low from 1983. In 2010-11, the number rose to 50, but since last June, there have been only 18 single-family housing starts, an average of two per month.”

During the month that column appeared, the city issued only four permits, three for renovations and one for new construction. The total value ran less than $400,000 — a new low.

Along came Ruden, then serving on the planning commission and now a member of McMinnville City Council. Call him shrewd, psychic or just plain lucky, but he decided to launch the first phase of an ambitious new McMinnville subdivision — The Bungalows at Chegwyn Village.

It sounded a little loony last spring, but it’s sounding a lot less so this spring as he completes his initial units. Construction, homebuilding and real estate are on the rebound, and Ruden is poised to profit with the first major new development McMinnville has seen in a long time.

What’s more, his housing style is as innovative as his timing. It bucks a 60-plus-year trend of housing designed around the almighty automobile rather than the needs of people. The Bungalows at Chegwyn Village feature expansive front porches nearly abutting the front curb, promoting interaction with neighbors. They relegate the garage to a corner of the back yard, accessed from an alleyway. 

The bungalows run fewer than 1,800 square feet — enough for a family of 10 in most parts of the planet, but considered by some as starter home standards for American newlyweds today. They are designed to foster old-fashioned pedestrian-oriented interaction, not to serve as walled palaces for people who want to ward off the rest of humanity.

Good timing; great design; and a pleasant welcome-back to home construction.

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