By Valliant Corley
Pilot staff writer
GOLD BEACH - The executive director of Oasis House said she and the board of the shelter home would discuss whether to seek to purchase a small apartment complex or join a larger project to provide housing for low-income Curry County individuals and families.
andquot;We need to see where we should go from here,andquot; Lea Sevey said after a meeting last week with representatives of county organizations, Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Coos-Curry Housing Authority. andquot;I want to talk with the board on what we need to do here.andquot;
The group of a dozen people met at Grant's restaurant in Gold Beach to discuss Sevey's proposal to seek grants to purchase a four-unit apartment complex or to look at a different approach.
andquot;Oasis has been here for 13 years now and we're going to some new directions,andquot; she said. andquot;We need housing in the community. We're looking into purchasing a complex to offer transitional housing. What I envision would be to have an affordable housing complex we could funnel our clients into but would also be open for low income people as long as they live by our standards - no drugs or alcohol.andquot;
She said there have been some problems with privately-owned apartment complexes in Gold Beach.
andquot;It isn't attractive for families who want to stay away from thatandquot; - drugs and drinking.
Karen Clearwater of Eugene, regional adviser to Oregon Housing and Community Services, attended the meeting. She has pledged to help Oasis as it seeks grants for the project.
andquot;Karen has looked at the property for sale,andquot; Sevey said. andquot;It is only a four-plex. I think it's down to $240,000, but it needs a little work. It only has four units, but that may be a place to start.andquot;
She suggested that units could be rented to clients of Oasis House after they leave the program. She said they often find it difficult to rent housing for themselves and their children.
andquot;They often experience credit problems,andquot; she said. andquot;That's usually a big problem that comes out of an abusive situation.andquot;
Ned Beman, the executive director of the North Bend City and Coos-Curry Housing authorities, supervises such low-rent housing, including a large complex in North Bend.
andquot;The private landlords want pristine credit,andquot; Beman said. andquot;We don't bother to check credit. Our waiting list now is from July this year, but we're fairly constant.andquot;
Curry County Economic Development Director Susan Brown, who works with Beman on the Homeless Coalition, said Oasis would need something larger than a four-unit complex.
andquot;That isn't enough,andquot; Brown said.
Sevey said that Oasis was considering starting small and hoped to grow into a larger project.
Beman said his authority can manage such housing projects, andquot;but we can't manage a four-plex. You can't afford a manager.andquot;
andquot;We have a game plan,andquot; Brown said of the Homeless group.
andquot;What our game plan is we are looking at the old mill siteandquot; east of Gold Beach to construct affordable housing, Beman said.
andquot;That's the ultimate dream,andquot; he said.
But he said it would take about 50 units for management and maintenance to pay.
andquot;That would be a couple of years down the road,andquot; Beman said. andquot;The Coos-Curry Housing Authority is discussing selling one of our properties to get money. If I sold Port Orford (a 12-unit complex the authority owns there), putting the money into a mixed financing. It's predevelopment dollars I need to even begin to start. As a housing authority, I can sell bonds.andquot;
Beman said he had written members of Oregon's congressional delegation asking the federal government to put money into public housing.
Clearwater said that if Oasis didn't join a larger project, it should start out small.
andquot;Keep it small,andquot; she said. andquot;Keep it all grant so you don't have a debt on it. Getting involved in real estate is a very permanent, long-term issue.andquot;
She said if the Oregon Housing and Community Services made a grant for a housing project, the agency would ask Oasis to keep it affordable, attractive and up to code for a minimum of 30 years.
andquot;This isn't for the faint of heart,andquot; Clearwater said. andquot;It can be very fulfilling. We would require services for people living there,andquot; working with agencies such as county mental health.
She said it would have to be long-term housing, not housing that the residents would have to leave after going through a two-year program.
andquot;You don't repair credit in two years,andquot; she said. andquot;If people repair their credit, get jobs, they'll move on their own,andquot; Clearwater said.
She said the deadline for application for state grants would be moved from February to May 2009.
andquot;We have very few state dollars,andquot; Clearwater said. andquot;If we don't start selling bonds soon, our agency will be in trouble.andquot;
She said if more money becomes available, she will know by February or March.
Clearwater said the housing must be run as a business.
andquot;We won't fund anything that can't pay its bills,andquot; she said. andquot;If you have people graduated out of programs, they have jobs. You have a viable situation. They can pay rent.andquot;
Sevey said Oasis House has clients who have jobs.
andquot;We require them to have income to stay in our transitional units,andquot; Sevey said. andquot;What I want to make sure we don't do is bite off more than we can handle.andquot;
Clearwater said her agency would require that any residents of the complex who made $19,000 to $21,000 a year that their rent would be no more than $452 a month.
Beman said if enough property was available, andquot;you can do workforce housing, subsidized housing, all together.
andquot;The service people can't afford to live here, in Gold Beach, in Brookings,andquot; he said.
Sevey said what is important to know andquot;is the people we have go into the service industry.andquot;
She said the Oasis board needs to decide whether they get their own small complex or be a part of a larger project.