Curry County isn’t alone in Oregon in regards to insufficient affordable or workforce housing, said Erin Doyle, a lobbyist with League of Oregon Cities at a Small Cities Support Network meeting in Bandon last week.
“Some areas of the state lack sufficient ‘executive’ housing, as well,” said Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman, who attended the event.
Nurses brought to Curry County when the new hospital opened in Gold Beach said they were living six to a park model. A woman who arrived to work for the Veteran’s Administration Clinic spent four months looking for housing that would accept her and her dog. Many people have had their rental units “sold out from underneath them” as homeowners sell to obtain the equity they’ve slowly reaccrued since the Great Recession.
Waiting lists for rental property — particularly HUD apartments — are months, sometimes years long.
Doyle outlined a variety of state and federal housing assistance programs available, noting that each has its own sets of definitions of affordable housing and criteria for eligibility.
“This is why many small cities do not pursue state and federal programs,” Milliman said. “We do not have the resources to get into the details and create competitive applications.”
Doyle said that Oregon Housing and Community Services (OCHS) has developed a draft statewide housing plan it primarily looks at the larger cities, placing Curry and Coos counties in the category of “remainder of state.”
Doyle said that OHCS is hiring two additional “housing integrators” to work with local officials on housing development.
Programs and ideas being initiated by local governments include:
•Enacting a construction excise tax. Similar to a System Development Charge, this tax is applied to new construction and the proceeds used to help develop affordable housing.
•Creating a “vertical housing abatement zone” wherein property owners who construct or rehabilitate housing units located above commercial shops can receive a property tax exemption for the value of the improvements.
Doyle noted that the only housing assistance programs that do not involve financial participation by local government are state and federal property tax credits. She also reported that a building industry coalition is developing a new code for housing units of 600 square feet or smaller to encourage the development of “tiny houses.”