A second draft study about the housing needs in the 97415 ZIP code area — most of Southern Curry County — confirmed what most people already know: The housing market, particularly rentals, is tight and expensive, particularly since the market started to rebound last summer.

The city of Brookings contracted with South Coast Development Council (SCDC) to conduct the study, which is usually required to obtain grant funds to address the issue or attract developers to build.

“The general rental market is exceptionally tight,” the study reads. “All property management companies and landlords or managers report that vacancies — usually only a very few per month — are usually filled within days. Everyone reports an extensive waiting list.

“Waiting lists for low-income or subsidized rental housing are long indeed, with most applicants waiting a year-and-a-half to two years or more for a suitable unit.”

The original study was going to address just the city of Brookings, but officials agreed to expand the scope to include the entire 97415 ZIP code area where many live and who call Brookings home.

The study examined the cost of housing compared to income, planned development, how vacation rentals impact housing availability for residents, and demand for affordable, market-rate rentals, for-sale and subsidized housing, among other demographic data. They used demographics from recent censuses, interviewed renters, property managers and real estate agents.

The data

Curry County residents, on average, are getting older, living alone and retired, making the housing market, particularly rentals, difficult to come by. Family size per 1,000 residents is less than that of the state and expected to keep declining, the study reads.

Yet, Curry County is slowly growing — in 1960, Brookings’ population represented 40 percent of the entire county and in 2010, was 63 percent. Much of that is due to in-migration from retiring Californians and employees who work at Pelican Bay Prison and Lucky 7 Casino. It was also noted that an increased pressure in Curry County is due to the loss of 225 mobile home and RV spaces in Smith River.

“From 2000 to 2015, the senior population has increased by 35.6 percent,” the study reads. “The older adult population and households are increasing at faster rates than the overall market. This shift has had powerful implications for future housing demand.”

Just over half of all the vacant housing units are available for sale or rent, with 49.8 percent used for seasonal, recreational or second-home use, which also plays into the problem.

The draft report cites four reasons for the recent tightening of the market:

•As the for-sale market has rebounded, many rental houses are being sold because owners have gained substantial equity in them since the Great Recession;

•Landlords and property managers have increased requirements to obtain rentals, including larger deposits, and checking criminal, credit and other records before selecting renters; those with pets “find it exceptionally difficult” to rent; and

•Homes are being converted to vacation rentals, taking them out of the rental pool. Such conversions are expected to continue, if not accelerate, the report reads.

The economy

The housing situation affects the local economy, as well.

“Although Oregon’s rural counties will continue to grow, it’s the nature of that growth that is concerning for the long-term economic outlook,” the report reads. “With the decline in the working-age group, as workers age out of the labor force, there will be fewer individuals to replace them. This leads to … difficulty attracting employees, and a tight housing market compounds the issue.”

The retirement age population grew by 24 percent from 2010 to 2015, and the working age and youth populations declined by 3 and 2 percent respectively.

The labor force participation here is already the worst in the state, with 46.3 percent of residents working, compared to 61 percent statewide.

Birth rates here are 7 per 1,000 residents, compared to 12 statewide, and the population of youth is decreasing as they leave to follow job opportunities. Combined with the age groups that are either aging or moving in — that increased 35.6 percent in the past 15 years — more housing will be needed.

“The shift to older and smaller households has powerful implications for future housing demand,” the report reads. “Smaller rentals, single-family dwellings and, of course, condominiums are likely to have increasing appeal and demand in this area.”

But, where?

Where additional housing would go — even more dense structures such as apartments and condominiums — would be up to landowners, developers and local officials.

But it is possible, with the local economy making a slow recovery, that U.S. Borax — a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Mining — might be interested in starting development of 1,000 single-family homes on 553 acres of property above Lone Ranch beach. The company stopped work after the Great Recession of 2008 and according to its website, seeks developers or investors willing to see it through to completion.

Borax had installed water and part of its sewer system to the property, and indicated in a letter last December that it is interested in finishing the system extension and “providing land for market housing.”

The project is proposed to leave 370 acres as open space and provide 4 miles of trails along the coastline.

“An early stage of the project may be appropriate for the development of affordable housing,” Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman wrote in a Dec. 5, 2016 letter to Curry and Coos county commissioners, the Coos-Curry Housing Authority and Oregon Coast Community Action.

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