At the League of Women Voters forum Oct. 2, Gold Beach City Councilor Becky Campbell (Position 3) pegged “a lack of housing” as the most serious problem facing the city, and the other five candidates agreed, although their solutions to the problem differed slightly.
Campbell proposed using the 3Ps — public-private partnerships — as the best way to develop solutions and also suggested limiting new vacation rentals “so we can address permanent housing.”
She said the council can do things to make building affordable housing happen in town, and she wants to move forward with those initiatives.
Bernice Torrez (Position 1) said the council is addressing these problems, but she favored offering incentives to developers and owners to encourage them to build accessory housing units (ADUs) and supported the addition of ADUs and tiny homes.
Summer Matteson (Position 1) looked forward to the Curry County Housing Study (the study was released Oct. 4) and the Gold Beach Housing forum, to be held Oct. 18, as ways to increase collaboration and said she would encourage stakeholders like NeighborWorks Umpqua, the Curry Homeless Coalition and others to work together.
Anthony Pagano (Position 3) suggested scouring the city’s codes to find and remove old statutes and ordinances that discouraged building and development. He proposed removing or waiving fees that hinder development in the city and reviewing restrictions for affordable housing.
“We need to defer fees and do things to get projects rolling, to get developers in here to create jobs and housing,” Pagano said.
The city’s Urban Renewal Committee (UR) can add housing to its plan, and, if the updated plan includes housing, programs can be used to increase housing and encourage mixed-use development, according to Councilor Tamie Kaufman (Position 5), who had just returned from a League of Oregon Cities Conference where she said she had learned this fact. She said UR money could be used to leverage money from private developers to increase projects.
She committed to push for those plans, work to have more residents take advantage of recent changes that allow residents to add ADUs and ensure those new ADUs are not used as vacation rentals.
Kaufman and Matteson mentioned that HUD had recently lowered its fair market rent value making it harder for those receiving vouchers or subsidies for rent assistance to find rentals that will meet the criteria and increasing the need for local action.
“We have employees in this community who cannot find a place to raise their families, or they get an eviction notice when they make more money and no longer qualify for help,” Amy Gaddis-Parker (Position 5) said.
She said she would work to educate more people about tiny-homes and get more residents to build them by pulling contractors, developers and homeowners together to work through obstacles and restrictions.
Most affordable housing is in the form of mobile homes and manufactured homes, according to Parker, but first time buyers are pushing their prices up as well, she said.
When the candidates focused on the poverty rate and ways to address it, Matteson said Head Start and Meals on Wheels were programs already working to alleviate problems associated with poverty and suggested the city provide more, similar programs.
She praised the Curry Homeless Coalition for providing bus passes and helping people get IDs and driver’s licenses so they could access services and get jobs.
Poverty has many root causes and a one-size-fits-all solution cannot be found, according to Torrez. She cited faith communities as a force working to solve poverty.
“The homeless are not one big thing,” she added. “The city might consider zones where people can sleep at night and not be rousted out, as a start, and then build to a better program.”
Campbell said the county poverty rate — the rate stated in the question was 41.7 percent — was “horrible” and the biggest barrier to ending poverty was the lack of a living-wage.
Residents should spend 20 to 25 percent of their income on rent, according to Campbell, but when they don’t make enough money to find a place to rent, they’re in in trouble. “We need to get businesses in here — get the economy rolling so the poverty rate decreases.”
Pagano also pushed for more jobs, jobs that paid a living-wage and more housing.
Kaufman stalled a bit and looked at her phone before saying the actual poverty rate was 18.1 percent, “still bad.”
She emphasized asking questions and checking things first, and encouraged adding cooperative manufactured home communities (CMHCs) in the county.
Kaufman, who manages CMHCs, said residents, many of whom have incomes below the poverty level or are disabled, volunteer to maintain and manage their own communities, and said those types of communities could help the county with both housing and poverty.
Parker supported the initiatives likely to take place if Measure 102 passes in the state. Measure 102 is a statewide constitutional amendment that would lift the current ban on the ability of local governments to work with nonprofits and businesses to build affordable housing with bonds.
Many of the county’s poor are not homeless, according to Parker, who said we need to deal with the problem locally because these people are our neighbors. “The trickle-effect takes a little while and we need to start it up,” she said referring to state and federal agencies.
A pointed question forced the candidates to state how many city council meetings they had attended in the last four years when they were not on the agenda.
Incumbents Kaufman and Campbell laughed at their clear advantage; both had attended roughly 46 meetings of the council as well as associated meetings.
Campbell noted, as a retired police officer, she chairs the Local Public Safety Coordinating Council and is the city council liaison for the fair board as well.
Kaufman chairs the Urban Renewal Committee.
Matteson led the other non-incumbents with 12 meetings attended while Torrez had been to six and Parker three. Pagano had not been to a council meeting but said he read the minutes afterwards.
The last question addressed by the Gold Beach candidates was whether or not they would ban burn-barrels. The question harkened back to earlier council action on the barrels when they voted not to ban them.
Most of the candidates claimed burn-barrels of their own, none said they would ban them and Pagano said he loved his burn-barrel.
However, all were open to further public discussion of the issue and would look to more strongly regulate them if additional restrictions were needed.
Kaufman said when it came in front of the council before, one person had asked for the ban and everyone else present supported the barrels.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .