Bruce Holz – On the Job

Community Action Team announces the retirement of Bruce Holz, the Supervisor of Affordable Housing Development.  For 22 years he put his depth of knowledge to work with CAT developing affordable, quality, and healthy housing solutions for those who need it the most. He has overseen countless builds, retrofits, & rehab projects that have improved lives, livelihoods, and our entire community.  Bruce started his career as a carpenter.  He retires not simply as a builder but as a mentor and leader in our community. We are deeply grateful for his contributions to Community Action Team and our community.

Bruce oversaw much of the building and rehabilitation programs after the flood in Vernonia, the Self-Help programs that provided the resources and support to low-income neighbors throughout NW Oregon,  worked on supportive housing projects, community and early-childhood education centers, and much, much more.

When asked to reflect on everything he has done he replied, in his familiar, humble, and no-nonsense way, “in my life I’ve never aspired to be anything more than a carpenter.”  But it wasn’t carpentry and building skills that have been his biggest strength and contribution.  He has been a teacher and a mentor to everyone who has had the privilege to work with him.

His ties go deep.  Bruce grew up and spent his early adulthood right here in Columbia county.  A life-long builder, Bruce began his professional life as a carpenter.  He spent his early years traveling and working on massive building projects.  Working for an international construction company, he traveled all over the world working on infrastructure projects.  Returning back to his home, he brought the skills, knowledge, and perspective with him.  He began his own construction company and raised his children.

Bruce is recognizable around town wearing a 15 year-old worn Carhart jacket.  In December, Bruce took some younger Community Action Team staff on a tour of a small handful of the projects he was a part of.  As the group stepped out of their vehicles into a cul-de-sac of 11 houses in St. Helens, a woman yelled “Bruce!”  Coming over with a huge smile on her face and saying “I thought that was you.”  It had been 15 years since Bruce had helped Jennifer and her husband build their home, as he did with all 11 families who live on the street.  Jennifer, now with teenage kids, told us with pride about the process and the neighborhood.

Most of the original eleven still live on the street.  In 2001, they built their home with a $100,000 Community Action Team financed low-interest mortgage.  In the 10 years since the houses were built, by the families themselves with Bruce’s expertise and mentorship, each family has gained about $250,000 in equity- $2.75 Million for low-income families in our community.  Multiply that by all the projects Bruce oversaw over the years and his incredible contribution to CAT’s mission is clear.

Family builds new Art Studio in their St. Helens home after completing Community Action Team’s Self Help Owner Housing Rehab program.

Bruce is proudest of his contributions in our Self Help Housing Program.   Self Help Housing is an innovative program where low income families who would otherwise be unable to buy a home actually BUILD their own home from the ground up.   The skeptics ask ‘How can a family who is struggling to meet their basic needs, let alone BUY their own home, possibly manage to successfully BUILD their own home?”

While Community Action provided the structure, the financing, and the support, the success of each individual project required someone who could manage and teach people who do not have a construction background, who had never built a house. It required someone who could guide them through the process as an act of empowerment and advocacy.  This was Bruce’s unique and indispensable contribution.  Casey said, almost in tears “when someone really, REALLY, knows what they are doing, there is an elegance to everything they touch.  Bruce brought that elegance to what we do.  People building their own homes is such a stretch already.  It wouldn’t have happened without Bruce.  It was his mastery that made the difference.”
Apartments raised above the floodplain in Vernonia
Self Help homes Bruce oversaw construction of
Self Help Homes Built
Foreclosed homes bought & rehabbed in 2008
Homes that needed critical work over the years
Million directly in the pockets of low- and very-low income families in our community.

Tell us your Bruce Story!

We are collecting memories and reflections from community members, clients, contractors, friends, and foes alike.  How did Bruce impact your life?

How did Bruce impact you?: