An innovative neighborhood in Medford
The Vision of New Spirit Village

In 2020, after the Almeda Wildfire in Southern Oregon, Kathryn and Barry Thalden decided to dedicate a significant portion of The Thalden Foundation funds that they had accumulated over many years, to a housing project dedicated to fire-victim families. A year after the fire, seeing families still housed in hotels and FEMA trailers, or even campgrounds, and realizing there was little affordable replacement housing being built, Kathryn said: “It looks like it’s up to us.”

New Spirit Village is a creative re-thinking on the development of affordable housing. While this one project of 87 homes will not solve the housing crisis in the U S, or even in Southern Oregon, it can serve as a prototype for building affordable communities because it encompasses so much more than just a new building type.  Rather, it is a whole new approach that creates the opportunity for a way out of multi-generational poverty.

New Spirit Village is Radically Innovative in Ten Ways.
  1. Home Ownership – This is the most important element of the development. Poverty is often a labyrinth with no exit. Unfortunately, affordable housing is designed to keep working-class people poor. The family that rents has nothing to show at the end of 20 years of payments, yet there is currently no federal government assistance program for creating affordable home ownership. New Spirit Village allows families to break out of multi-generational poverty by building equity in their own home.
  2. Affordability – Through the use of grants, these homes are available with “no-money-down” and 30-year, long term mortgages. In a country as wealthy as the United States, everyone should have access to the opportunity of home ownership.  New Spirit Village will allow families that lost everything in the wildfires to have a new start in life and an opportunity to experience the pride and financial security of home ownership.
  3. High-Density Single-Family Homes – Utilizing a “Zero-lot-line” layout in a Planned Unit Development, this subdivision achieves 15 units per acre, a density normally considered multi-family, reducing the land and site development costs required per house.
  4. Permanent Affordability – Through a Land Trust model managed by Proud Ground, a not-for-profit organization, homeowners will own their own house but not the land under it, which is held in perpetuity. The Land Trust contract allows homeowners to keep their house as long as they like and can pass the house on to their children, but they cannot rent it to others.  If they choose to sell, it must be re-sold at a formulated affordable price. For many families, homeownership represents the “American Dream,” historically being the primary route to investing and saving for the future, elevating people to a higher standard, building wealth, and creating a more stable life. But generations of families with lower incomes, a disproportionate number of which have been people of color, have been locked out of homeownership. The Land Trust model ensures that working class families can gain wealth through home ownership while maintaining home affordability for future generations. 
  5. New Technology, Energy Efficiency and Sustainability – While most of the homes will be wood construction, as a demonstration of future technology, some of the homes will have 3-D Concrete printed walls. 
    Dense development conserves land, while locally sourced materials, less construction waste, and thermal efficient walls conserve the planet’s resources. Additionally, all the houses will have EV charging outlets and be solar ready to use even less energy in the future.
  6. Private, Narrow “Walkable Streets” – The cobblestone character streets with 5 or 10 mph speed limits and adjacent sidewalks are only 2 to 3 feet from the front porches.  Residents can easily become friends with their neighbors and children, keeping the village safer.
  7. Disaster Resistant Construction –  With ever increasing threats of wildfire, there is an urgent need for new and creative ways to provide replacement housing. New Spirit Village homes are being constructed of fire-resistant and siding with concrete streets, not oil-based asphalt.
  8. Well-Designed Homes and Neighborhood – “Affordable Housing” has acquired a bad reputation because too often the character of “Low-Cost Housing” has just been plain ugly. Unlike 98% of the houses in the U.S., the NSV homes are designed by professional architects.  The design character is best described as “Charming.” Unlike anonymous looking apartment complexes, each house will be uniquely individual in color and character, and located on delightful, landscaped streets.
  9. Recreation Opportunities – New Spirit Village is a 6-acre development adjacent to 8-acre Lewis Park, a city park with a running path, playground, ballcourt, natural creek area and plenty of lawn for sports, fun and leisure. In addition, the development has its own outdoor recreation area with community gardens and a playground.
  10. Participatory Design – Affordable Housing, or “Low-Income Housing”, as it has unfortunately been referred to, follows HUD regulations that have been established over many years by upper middle-class people with technical expertise but little understanding of the specific needs and preferences of those who will be living in the houses. New Spirit Village has been created with input from the potential homeowners, including younger people, women, and minorities, at a community meeting held at United Way offices in Medford, and also with the participation of the directors of 18 social service and state housing agencies that have met bi-weekly by ZOOM for over a year.
The Intention of NewSpirit Village

We are not only interested in replacing the previous housing. We are interested in changing people’s lives by creating safer housing with long-term benefits – in a more attractive, livable, secure, and stable neighborhood. Ultimately, that will also benefit the city and the region. The ripple effect of affordable new homes for 87 families frees up existing housing so those in rentals, shelters, or on the street can move up.

Our intention is to create a better-housing demonstration neighborhood in the Rogue Valley. We hope to partner with forward-thinking community members that share our visions and will work together with us to make this happen.

Who Are We?

The Thalden Foundation is a philanthropic not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation based in Ashland, Oregon, directed by Kathryn and Barry Thalden, who are both retired and moved to Ashland in 2012. Their lifelong commitment to building community is reflected in the careers and current volunteer roles:

Kathryn serves on the Board of Directors of Parker House, a transitional residential shelter for women and children in Ashland. Kathryn´s background includes founding and operating a city planning and landscape architectural firm in Kansas City, and, later, was founding minister of the Unity Church in Green Valley in Henderson, Nevada.

Barry serves on the Board of Trustees of Southern Oregon University and the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra. Barry´s background is as an architect that founded, and for 43 years led, what became a nationally known architectural firm, with offices in St. Louis, Tulsa, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Barry´s experience includes designing tens of thousands of creative residential units from coast to coast.

Over the past 9 years, The Thalden Foundation has funded a wide variety of projects in the Rogue Valley. While the Thaldens prefer to support the community anonymously, some of their projects have been public by necessity, including: The World Peace Monument and The Thalden Pavilion on the Southern Oregon University campus, the establishment and annual support of the Flower Basket program in downtown Ashland, large murals at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank and along Calle Guanajuato in Ashland, as well as a large mural in Ashland´s Sister City of Guanajuato, Mexico. 

The Thalden Foundation is interested in building this new community and providing charitable contributions that would fund portions of the project, such as: design costs, down payment reductions, community center, laundry, community kitchen, and a community park with playground and gardens.

The Thalden Foundation - New Spirit Village