The cost of a new home will increase by hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in 2020 when all new homes must, by law, be wired for solar power.

And two years after that, all new commercial buildings will have to abide by the same rules.

It’s part of an executive order Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat with a strong environmental bent, signed into law in early November. The move angered many in the homebuilding business, who wondered why it didn’t go through the more typical channels of the legislature.

But it also comes at a time in Curry County — and statewide — that the housing market is tight and rental and sales costs are increasing. And the added cost to a new home, some say, could deter people from buying.

The lack of affordable housing here in the past three years has forced some to move from the county. Many people are on months- and in some cases, years-long waiting lists to get into subsidized housing. Even nurses hired for the new hospital in Gold Beach were living in temporary housing for weeks on end, waiting for housing to become available. For some of them, it didn’t, and they returned home.

Others have had the property they were renting sold from underneath them, as owners believe the economy has recovered enough from the Great Recession that they can get their equity out of a sale. Still others have converted their homes into vacation properties — one of the more common actions in Brookings of late — effectively taking them off the market for long-term use.

There have been very few new residential construction starts in Curry County in the past several years — and even fewer multi-family projects.

Brookings had nine single-family residential applications both this year and last, according to city documents. There were no two-family nor multi-family residential dwelling applications submitted in 2016 or 2017.

The new law

The legislation was crafted, in part, by the Oregon Environmental Council, which said the order will give homeowners an incentive to install solar panels if the wiring is already in place. Jana Gastellum, the climate program director of the council said if it is easier to install panels, more people will do it.

She also said homeowners could recoup the costs of the panels with lower energy bills in the future.

The prices of panels are coming down — primarily due to the cheap labor costs in China, which provides America with 70 percent of its panels — and is recouped in six to eight years, according to most recent industry news.

Others don’t like the idea of having to pay to install something — the electrical infrastructure — for something they don’t plan to use.

The advent of EVs

A second executive order Brown signed into law sets a goal to have at least 50,000 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in the state by 2020.

Currently, there are about 13,000, compared with 750 just five years ago. As of April, Oregon was ninth in the nation for the number of EVs — 1.5 percent — on its roads, according to Oregon Business magazine.

Nationally, that market grew 37 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Despite all the bells and whistles the cars feature, even the mid-priced Chevy Bolt only gets 238 miles on a single charge of electricity. That isn’t going to get anyone from Brookings to Portland in less time — and it’s 100 miles more, on average, than other EVs.

And recharging the batteries can take a minimum of a half-hour — and at that speed, one had better be charging a Tesla. The so-called “Fast DC-Charger,” compatible with other EVs, puts about 40 miles of range time in a battery in 10 minutes — still, about a half-hour wait. That’s three half-hour charge stops just to get to Portland.

Then again, the average cost to drive an EV 100 miles in Oregon is $3.21, versus $12.16 for a gasoline-powered car, Oregon Business said.

It is unknown if any penalties will be imposed on those who continue to drive gas-powered vehicles, although legislation has been discussed regarding a mileage tax. That issue has come to the forefront because of EVs, which use less gas and therefore, pay less in taxes to repair roads.

A mileage-based road tax would involve installing GPS systems on vehicles to determine how many miles a car travels, then billing a tax rate to pay for road repair. That has raised the ire of people in remote areas of the state who often have to drive long distances to get to the most basic services. And it fails to address how those driving through Oregon from other states would pay their fair share, nor how those who leave the state — as little as dipping into California on Highway 199 or as extensive as heading to Florida on vacation — would be reimbursed.

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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