Country Media commissioned a seasoned journalist to spend the last three weeks researching local efforts to create additional housing in the region stretching from Gold Beach south through Del Norte County. This is Part I of that two-part series, focusing first on Curry County.
Curry County officials are drafting an emergency declaration to send to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown as one of several efforts to provide more housing for local residents.
“We’re in a state of emergency and we need housing,” said Julie Schmelzer, Curry County’s director of operations.
The declaration “would let developers and the state know we are in crisis mode and need assistance,” Schmelzer said.
The county also is considering rezoning some properties to expand its urban-growth boundary to “increase the availability of land” on which to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
ADUs are smaller homes that can be built at a more affordable price. They’re seen by many as one way to deal with the region’s housing crisis.
To date, the Oregon Legislature has restricted ADUs to the urban-growth boundary, said Megan Chuinard, spokeswoman for the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC).
“In the 2019 (legislative) session, AOC advocated for SB 88, which would have allowed counties to authorize construction of ADUs on lands zoned for rural residential use,” Chuinard said.
“This bill did not pass, but AOC will continue to work to pass legislation allowing ADUs to be permitted in rural residential areas.”
City of Brookings Public Works and Developmental Services Director Tony Baron said in an email last week that the city had issued only one permit for an ADU in the past year.
And, Baron said, he does not know of any workforce housing construction currently underway in Brookings.
Schmelzer said that when the county has the necessary available land, it plans to notify developers and “say we’re open for business.”
The county also is considering a tax credit for developers who construct workforce housing, she said.
Meantime, a single-family housing subdivision is planned for unincorporated Curry County within the Gold Beach Urban Growth Boundary, said Joshua Stout, one of the project’s developers.
Pacifica at Rogue Reef is approved for up to 33 single-family homes, Stout said.
He and Joshua Richards, both Gold Beach residents, are with the development group Sant Pacific, headquartered locally. In addition to Oregon, the group has developments underway in Utah.
Stout said he knows of only two residential developments presently under construction in Curry County.
He said getting banks to invest in a local housing development was difficult because the area sports no recent proven track record. It’s been about 20 years since anyone built a subdivision in this area.
“It took some convincing (the banks), because these areas along the coast are not a proven market,” said Stout.
“It took a lot of time and patience and market studies, (together with) the resumes of the principals of the company and the company’s proven track record,” to get the banks to loan money for the project.
In 2008, the property now under development had planning approval for 52 attached units. But that project “was halted in 2008 due to the recession,” he said. Stout and his group purchased the property in early 2019.
He said the houses’ prices will range from $280,000 to $440,000, depending on the size of the structure and lot.
Stout said he had read a report that put the median price for a single-family home in Curry County at $409,000.
“My wife’s family are from Gold Beach,” said Stout. “The community is at the forefront of our minds,” prompting the decision to build there.
He said work is underway on the group’s project and that “vertical” construction is expected to begin in early fall. “We are finalizing details and engineering for home plans.”
Another, separate group of developers is Curry Properties, Inc., whose co-owners are Herbert W. Crook, Jr. and his wife, Pamela.
Herbert Crook said in a recent email that, “The development started as an answer to the housing crisis in central Curry County.
“Our desire was to develop a mixed-use area that was custom homes, apartments and vacation homes.
And, “We are very interested in building workforce housing,” Crook said. “In fact, it was that need that kicked-off our present development.
“Unfortunately, the building costs of our present building have priced us into a higher price point for our apartments than we anticipated.
“However, we are working our way into much lower-priced units to help provide staff-housing relief for those looking for a great, affordable place to live.
“Price will dictate size, but not quality,” said Crook. “These will be very affordable, attractive and amazing homes to live in, perhaps as small as 600 square feet or even smaller.”
He said their current development, The Springs at Deerhaven, consists of a building divided into four two-bedroom, two-bathroom units of about 1,250 square feet. It’s located at 94353 Leith Rd. in Gold Beach.
“These will be vacation rentals, with the potential of a long-term lease,” said Crook.
“Currently, we are about 90 percent finished with the building,” he said. “We hope to finish in July, but August is much more likely.
“We are anticipating renting these luxury units in the $2,500 to $3,250 range per month with a long-term lease, or $1,750 to $2,450 per week as vacation rentals, depending on the unit.”
Crook said building in this area has meant adhering to a number of city, county and state rules and regulations.
Plus, “We are facing shortages of qualified contractors at this point. It’s hard to find the skilled labor to move our project forward at an efficient pace, which costs us time and money. I can’t overstate that enough.
“Things like expenses due to various new unexpected regulations - for us, difficult engineering on slope conditions, rainy seasonal issues, untimely municipal red-tape, EPA issues, lack of skilled available labor, the work in maintaining a good relationship with our community, etc. - are the challenges we face daily.”
Added Crook, “We are presently communicating with Curry Health Network, as well as our city and county officials, to help us target what other types of housing will be most beneficial for our area’s needs, both now and into the future.”
Meantime, Rob Foster, coordinator of the Curry County Housing Task Force, said several local agencies had commissioned a study to look at the state of housing in the countywide.
That study outlined the primary challenges for additional housing, then offered some recommendations, Foster said.
In December 2018, the task force was created to “respond to (those) recommendations.”
Next Wednesday, Part II of this regional housing outlook examines the issues facing Del Norte County.