UEC celebrates manufactured home replacement program’s first recipient

An overcast rainy day couldn’t dampen the spirits of Matthew
and Serenity Stull as they cut the ribbon on their new home on a country lane
northeast of Hermiston.

The Stull family has become the first beneficiary of a
program to help Umatilla Electric Cooperative members replace older
manufactured homes with energy-efficient models.

A ribbon-cutting Thursday, Jan. 12 marked the first manufactured
home to be replaced and occupied in a program that combines the efforts of UEC,
state and federal agencies.

The Stulls have operated Parkins Garage Door Company for a
dozen years. They have two children, ages 7 and 10, and are committed to
raising them in the community where they both grew up. They also have a small
farming operation on Columbia Lane.

To maximize energy savings, year-around comfort and
healthier indoor air, the Stulls have replaced their 1984 doublewide with a
Northwest Energy Efficient Manufactured Housing Certified Home, known as NEEM,
purchased from Oregon Trail Homes in Hermiston.

“It’s a wonderful program and it’s worked well for
us,” Serenity Stull said. “We can continue to grow on property we
own, without having to move or build a new home.”

The home is far more comfortable and healthy, compared to
their old home with single-paned windows and minimal insulation and air
sealing, she said. The new home keeps an even temperature and keeps out dust
from nearby fields.

“Our old house had icicles dripping down the sides as
the heat was leaving through the roof,” she said. “You can visually
see the efficiency compared to the home we had.”

Here’s how the loan package works:

UEC provides a low-interest primary loan to the homeowner to
buy a highly efficient manufactured home and pay for a foundation and related
sitework. The source of UEC’s funding is a loan from USDA’s Rural Energy
Savings Program (RESP). The homeowner is obligated to repay this portion of the
loan package over 20 years.

Based on household income and other criteria, to help make
the new home affordable by offsetting a significant portion of the cost, Oregon
Housing and Community Services (OHCS) provides a supplemental “gap”
loan that is fully forgivable if the occupant stays 10 years. This loan is at
zero-interest and no payments are required.

The state also provides a grant to fully cover the cost of
removing and recycling the old home.

To qualify for UEC’s program, loan recipients must receive
their electricity from UEC and occupy the home as their primary residence.

The home must be located on the recipient’s personally owned
property, in a cooperatively or nonprofit-owned manufactured home park, or in a
privately owned park that has a written agreement with OHCS.

The program is intended for households with an annual
household income at or below 100 percent of Oregon’s average median income. The
participating homeowner also agrees to take a homeowner/energy conservation

The older home must be certified as energy inefficient –
most manufactured homes built before the mid-1990s are considered as such.

Increased insulation, tighter building envelope, better
performing windows, LED lighting, Energy Star appliances and other features of
a manufactured home with NEEM certification can provide up to 30 percent more
energy savings than a home built to minimum code requirements.

For UEC, the intention is that energy savings from a highly
efficient home will help offset part of the homeowner’s loan, said Lisa McMeen,
UEC’s vice president of administration.

“We are excited to partner with state and federal
agencies for the most ambitious energy saving program we have ever offered to
our residential members,” McMeen said.

“We are truly grateful for the dedication of all those
who helped us become among the very first electric cooperatives in the U.S. to
offer this program,” she said.

Since 2019, UEC has been using the USDA’s RESP program –
championed by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley – to help members finance heat pumps,
windows and other energy-saving measures.

“The Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP) is a crucial
tool to help rural Oregonians make important energy efficiency improvements to
their homes that will save them money by lowering their energy use,” said
Merkley said.

He authored and funded the program that helps Oregon’s rural
families and businesses meet the up-front costs of investing in energy
efficiency projects.

“The completion of this home – the very first
manufactured home replacement by a rural electric cooperative in Oregon using
RESP funding – is a big milestone. Congratulations to UEC and the Stull family
for being trailblazers in this program in Umatilla County.”

Building on the success of that program, UEC worked with
federal legislators and agencies to expand RESP to include manufactured home
replacement as an energy-saving measure.

At the same time, on the statewide front, UEC collaborated
with legislators and community action agencies to create manufactured home
replacement legislation, signed by the governor in 2020 and now administered by
Oregon Housing & Community Services and its Manufactured Home Replacement
Advisory Committee.

The state’s manufactured home replacement program also works
with other organizations, such as the Energy Trust of Oregon, to provide benefits
to as many Oregonians as possible. In Northeast Oregon, for example, customers
of Pacific Power and Cascade Natural Gas also may be eligible for the state’s
gap loan through the Energy Trust.

Adds Greg Smith, who administers UEC’s Business Resource
Center and its manufactured home replacement program, “It’s exciting UEC
has a tool that helps homeowners enhance not only their energy efficiency but
their quality of life.”