Bend needs more homes. Our idyllic community is no longer a secret as it tops lists of best cities to live in year after year. New residents are migrating in faster than the pace of the town’s residential development, a situation that can be frustrating to some but also inspires innovation and opportunity for the forward thinkers at Hiatus Homes.
Hiatus Homes is a grassroots land developer and homebuilder in Bend tackling the local housing crisis by focusing on a new category of high-density detached neighborhoods that emphasize livability through intelligent design. Hiatus is creating energy-efficient homes and doing it in smaller home sizes, typically 600-1300 square feet. In addition to pushing the envelope in design and construction, Hiatus has innovated how its developments are funded by forming the Hiatus Capital Fund. The fund offers local real estate investors a way to be part of the Hiatus Housing philosophy while benefitting financially from the extraordinary need for this new type of housing.
For the Hiatus investors, it is not just about money, although the track record of investor returns is impressive, even to the savviest real estate pro. Investors in the Hiatus Capital Fund take a role in shaping the world they want to live in—one that includes net-zero, energy-efficient communities full of like-minded neighbors choosing to reduce their environmental impact, reduce the clutter in their homes and in their lives, and live in an intentional way. Often investors will end up buying a home in one of the Hiatus communities, or Hiatus homebuyers learn about the fund and become investors. Hiatus Homes and the Hiatus investment fund attract people who believe in the core philosophy of quality over quantity.
Hiatus Homes started humbly with its Founder, Jesse Russell, building tiny homes on wheels and a tiny tavern for a local brewpub. Those eye-catching early projects garnered attention at the Bend Design Conference in 2016 and then grew into the ambitious large-scale development, Hiatus Benham—a 22-home cottage community in Southeast Bend. It featured 600-square-foot homes positioned in half-circles around open space, with community gardens and gathering places. The homes are ‘stick built’ on their own land, a major advance from the tiny-home-on-wheels roots of the small housing movement.The Benham project was popular with buyers and sold out (with waiting lists of buyers) in mid-2022. The project also did very well financially with a small group of friends and family investors earning returns that exceeded expectations, some almost doubling their investment. “The initial investors didn’t know if buyers would be willing to pay for small homes, but they believed there was a core segment of homebuyers that wanted a small home to live a freer and more minimalist lifestyle,” recalls Russell.
“The demand was amazing and the investors who were involved in the project were thrilled when they saw a big return,” he says.
Those initial investors were impressed with the success of the project, so much so that many of them called and asked, “What’s the next project? Can I send you back the check?” That is when Russell partnered with Ryan Andrews to form the Hiatus Capital Fund. “The goal was to provide a way to capitalize a series of projects in Central Oregon and to do it with local investor money instead of going to traditional Wall Street-type sources of capital,” says Andrews, CFO of Hiatus Homes. Today the fund is $3.5 million and growing. “Being financed by the community, for the community is important to us,” says Andrews. Right now, the fund is open to Accredited Investors and two-thirds of the fund’s investors are from Central Oregon.
Many investors see their investment in the Hiatus Capital Fund as an impact investment. These investors are aligning their investment portfolio with their values, like investing in solar energy instead of oil. They vote with their dollars. Investors have an even bigger impact than consumers because it takes investment capital to create new products and bring them to market. “The Fund is a chance for investors to vote for something they want to see in the world,” explains Andrews. “They are investing in a philosophy and financial returns are the byproduct.”
Hiatus plans to grow regionally, across the state, and then into other states. In Bend, the team is working on multiple projects including Roosevelt, a seven-home project near Bend’s Old Mill; Penn Apartments, a co-working space integrated with a 40-unit apartment building in Midtown; Hiatus Ninth, an Orchard District project of nine twin homes—a studio flat attached to a one-bedroom home.
To find out more about the Hiatus Capital Fund, attend their upcoming webinar: 12 p.m., June 8, 2022. Register at HiatusCapitalFund.com
What started your interest in the Small Home Movement? “I was living in LA working as a reality television producer, and I wanted to return to my hometown of Bend. One of the TV networks I was working with was launching a new show called Tiny House Nation. I had never heard of tiny houses, but when I saw all of these amazing homes built on trailers, with so much innovation in the use of space and dripping with creativity, I was hooked and knew that Bendites would love this!..It took about a year to build what would be the first tiny house—it was named Hiatus, because at the time I was on a hiatus from my previous life. That hiatus turned into a company of the same name.”
What are the philosophical intersections between how to view housing and how to live life? "People who are attracted to this type of living also care about the environment and their impact on it, interact with their community and town, and appreciate the low maintenance of these small spaces which gives them more time to spend with friends and loved ones and get outside!"
How do you maintain a balance between work and life? "It's cliché, but when you love what you do it doesn't seem like work. When I'm working with our team to solve a design problem or meeting with other groups in the city to try to find solutions to our housing crisis, or touring a potential investor around our houses and job sites—it doesn't seem like work at all."
What actions can individuals take to affect more significant change in the world? "First off, participate in the local discussion. Read the paper, go to City Council meetings and have your voice heard on the local level. Keep your dollars local. Invest in projects that are making a difference for your neighbors and your community as a whole."
What are the best ways individuals can invest in a sustainable future? " 'Sustainable' is a buzzword today, but to me, it means doing something that you are able to keep doing—a pace or a habit one is able to sustain for a long period of time. Getting rid of large amounts of personal debt is the first step to a sustainable life…Once we are free from debt I think we start to naturally shed other things that we don’t use or don’t need which frees up attention to focus on relationships, activities, and learning that will define our lives and our legacies when the dust has settled."
What is the idea/impetus behind the Hiatus Capital Fund?
We wanted to provide a way for local investors to invest in local housing and development projects. In many cases, our investors are some of the same contractors, subcontractors, and project professionals, such as architects and engineers, who are working on our projects. They see the day-to-day of what we are doing and they chose to invest their own personal capital into the business. This is a critical part of our DNA as a company because when we generate profits from creating a great project, that money flows back into the community and the people who made it happen.
“Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want,” says Author Anna Lappé. As a financial expert, how do you find this to be true?
Money is THE most powerful vote each of us has. When we exchange our money for something, we perpetuate it. Often, we think about this as consumers or purchasers which makes complete sense, what we buy as consumers rewards the producers and they make more of it. What gets ignored is how we cast a vote as investors. Investors pay for products to be created and when investors put capital into businesses they are enabling that business to create products. Investing is a very powerful way to vote with your money as investors get to choose what gets created and then consumers get to choose if it gets created again and again.