The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners held a board meeting Wednesday, Jan. 15, to hear a Housing Needs Assessment Presentation from Sarah Absher, director of community development; Todd Chase, AICP, LEED AP, principal of economic services; Erin Skaar, executive director of CARE, Inc. and Jake Davis, Tillamook County housing coordinator. Skaar said the process of the assessment began in 2013.
A housing task force was started by Commissioner Bill Baertlein and the county, Skaar said. The two keys partners in this study were CARE, Inc. and the Tillamook County Creamery Association. CARE, Inc. has been a fiscal agent for two studies.
“When we started this work back in 2015, our first study was funded almost completely by Tillamook County Creamery Association,” Skaar said. “They understood early in the conversation the importance of housing for the community and step forward with funds to help us begin to dig into the problem.”
Chase said they have been working on this issue for almost a year. They started in January of last year.
According to the Housing Needs Assessment, Tillamook County has been growing consistently for 20 years. Tillamook has been growing half as fast as the state average. There are 2,890 new dwellings over the past 17 years, according to data that went from 2000 to 2017. That data was pulled from historic building permit data provided by the Community Development Department.
“As Todd also mentioned, right now a vast majority of our new housing stock is diverted to second homes or short-term rentals,” Davis said. “The projections of 2,603 new units needed over the next 20 years depends on a significantly more favorable split of new housing going to long term rentals.”
Davis said the projections of 2,603 new units needed over the next 20 years depends on a significantly more favorable split of new housing going to long-term versus short-term/seasonal housing (about half short-term, half long-term).
“I’d also like to note that most of those dwellings were constructed pre-recession,” Davis said. “This is a national trend: new housing starts have slowly recovered since the recession but are still short of their pre-recession levels.”
There is a need to increase the number of new housing (most multi-family and single family, rental and ownership) to get ahead of increased rents/prices, Davis said. 90 percent of those have been built for seasonal residents. Housing for year-round residents has remained slack. In fact, seasonal housing is crowding out residential housing, especially long-term rentals.
Chase said Tillamook has three housing markets to work with: coastal/seasonal, inland/local, and mixed. Tillamook County is near a 0 percent vacancy rate for long-term rental units, compared with a more typical rate of 4-5 percent, which is found in most cities in Oregon, Chase said. 22 percent of Tillamook renters spend over 50 percent of their income on rent, from data in 2018.
Housing and other factors are contributing to an increase in economically distressed households, Chase said. Tillamook County is now tied for second, according to a metric furnished by United Way called ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed).
“This is a really spectacular report that takes a variety of data sources to calculate the percentage of households not only impoverished by the federal standard, but also near impoverished based on cost of living, tax burden, income, etc.,” Davis said.
Tillamook County’s ALICE percentage has gone from 19 percent in 2010, to 23 percent in 2012, to 31 percent in 2014, to 37 percent in 2016. Davis said the 2018 numbers are not out yet, but he suspects they will be similar to 2016, and the county has trended very high.
Chase said one in four workers commute over 100 miles a day. Davis said this data is compiled by the Census Bureau, which looks at where residents for a given geographic area are coming from and going to for work.
“The data suggests that 21.5 percent of workers in Tillamook County commute 50 or more miles each way,” Davis said. “I would caveat this slightly – some of these workers will be ‘work from home,’ but the overall number is still very large.”
Davis managed to grab this data and aggressively cut out some cases that he thought were probably remote workers instead of actual commuters, and it still only brought the number down to 17 percent. The implication is that people are moving out of the county, presumably due to housing costs, to reach their job in-county.
There is an estimate of nearly 3,000 more people expected by year 2040. There is more demand for small lot dwellings, townhomes, plexes and apartments. There is a need for middle income housing that consist of smaller, more affordable units.
Chase did a residential needs analysis and found that despite environmental constraints, there are 2,000 acres of buildable residential-zoned land that exists in the unincorporated areas in the county. Chairman David Yamamoto asked if there has been any analysis done in the unincorporated areas in south Tillamook County that are buildable. Chase said 815 dwellings would need to be added in.
According to the assessment, 1,788 new dwellings in the cities would require 404 buildable acres. There is very low-density zoning in unincorporated areas in the county. The smaller cities have better potential for providing townhomes, duplexes and more. Policy recommendations were to utilize state and federal grants for gap funding.
A 10-year multiple-unit tax abatement is part of the missing solution, Chase said. He encourages accessory dwelling units (guest homes, granny-flats, mother-in-law-apartments) and cottage homes within the low-density zones. There should be focus on downtown redevelopment in Tillamook.
Chase suggested an expansion of water and sewer and include both in unincorporated areas. He wants to continue countywide Housing Needs Assessment planning and housing allocations with city, community and Department of Land Conservation & Development input. He suggested to continue to work with local sewer and water districts to determine current and planned capacity levels.
Another recommendation was to partner with others to create new local housing construction certification programs. Shelter Institute provides classes for people in northeast from rural Maine. People travel for 300 miles for these trainings. There is nothing like it in Oregon or Washington, Chase said.
Baertlein asked of the 2,000 acres available, how much of it are property owners actually willing to sell. Chase said there is a supply here of land that a lot of communities do not have. He suggested that the county reach out to property owners about developing in the near future. Absher said they are currently identifying potential sites.
“This is going to be a challenge,” Absher said.
Commissioner Mary Faith Bell said she is excited to deliver the data and start with work. Commissioner Bill Baertlein said there could be an impact on school districts. He pointed out that Newport called the office to see what Tillamook was doing and followed their plan.