Addressing the Shortage of Affordable and Workforce Housing in Coos and Curry Counties
Conversations about the need for affordable and workforce housing are not new to Coos or Curry County residents (or the country as a whole, honestly). What follows frames recent conversations on local housing issues and tangible actions that have occurred as a result. Enormous thanks go out to those countless advocates who, over the years, have paved the way for the work still to come.
The idea for a comprehensive coastal housing study came about during the 2017 New Community Coalition (Coos County) Homeless Summit. After several discussions between Coos and Curry County housing representatives on whether to combine efforts on such a study, it was decided to pursue the Coos County study and reassess Curry County’s participation at a later date.
In October 2017, acting on behalf of the Coos County Housing Task Force, United Way of Southwestern Oregon put out a call for RFPs for a study to provide information about the type, size, location, and price of housing required to meet current and future needs of county residents. The study would also analyze market forces, planning, and zoning regulations, and local barriers that impact housing in Coos County. czbLLC was chosen to complete the study. Nearly $100,000 was raised from major donors and local community organizations to fund the project.
czbLLC’s Coos County Housing Study data collection efforts included thorough data analysis of the factors noted above, as well as completion of nine focus groups with a diverse cross-section of Coos County community members to discern what “the numbers” could not: individual perceptions and expectations about the market performance of different areas within the county, opinions about housing products not currently available, identification of local assets, and the desire for particular amenities.
In April 2018, preliminary results of the Coos County Housing Study were presented to over 200 key stakeholders, community partners and interested community members at the Coos County Housing Summit. Charles Buki of czbLLC called upon attendees to take action to “strategically rebuild the housing market so it makes sense for existing owners to reinvest their time, energy and money in their homes at rates not presently occurring but needed.” A significant lack of pride in place was also noted as a result of the study. In May 2018 the full report was released for distribution; key recommendations included the creation of a housing trust fund, exploring opportunities for employer-funded housing programs, and working with cities and counties to address regulatory and other factors impacting/impeding housing development.
Coos County Housing Summit presentation slides: https://unitedwayswo.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Coos-Slides.pdf
Full video presentation: https://coosmediacenter.viebit.com/player.php?hash=0GnGuw53l9Lb
Coos County Housing Analysis & Action Plan (read online): https://buffalo.box.com/s/us0poehn9owwy47hufyd08jvixca9cvo
Coos County Housing Analysis & Action Plan (to print): https://buffalo.box.com/s/krkq9gs10ujqemjv8pjmy6sh7qwwx64x
Curry County began addressing its housing issues in early 2016 with then County Commissioner Susan Brown’s “Low-Income and Affordable Housing Action Plan.” In May 2018, a housing study meeting was convened; AllCare Health and Advanced Health stepped up along with other funders to support the study. United Way of Southwestern Oregon played an important role as the fiscal sponsor and initial coordinator of the Curry efforts, and worked with czbLLC to implement the Curry study even as the Coos action plan was being completed. A similar process included thorough data analysis and focus groups with realtors, rental owners, contractors, government and planning experts, school districts, county representatives, and social service agencies. Results were presented to stakeholders in October 2018; key recommendations included the development of a housing trust fund, partnering with the business community and major employers on housing initiatives, and updating government toolkits to encourage the development of workforce housing.
Curry County presentation slides: https://unitedwayswo.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Presentation-Curry-County-9-12June2018-.pdf
Curry County Housing Analysis & Action Plan (read online): https://buffalo.box.com/s/tv33zhqssh35311h8mey1onbjeyywqib
Curry County Housing Analysis & Action Plan (to print): https://buffalo.box.com/s/g55zwihv2jx281i29hdes6vla65zyzmb
Both housing studies led to the development of action-oriented working committees in Coos and Curry Counties. Although there are similarities and differences in the recommendations, priorities, and approaches between Coos and Curry Counties, there are also cross-county opportunities to consider, and each committee is actively working across county lines to transparently share information, committee structures, and common language as they begin to address their county’s unique housing needs. Representatives on one or more of the county committees include NeighborWorks Umpqua, Oregon Coast Community Action, Advanced Health, AllCare Health, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, United Way of Southwestern Oregon, city and county officials, and community members committed to the cause.
During the summer of 2019, Shannon Souza, Coos Housing Action Team chair, and Rob Foster, Curry Housing Task Force organizer, participated in an informative KCIW Reality Check interview describing the work of the task forces to date. That interview is available here.
In August 2019, Curry County’s Board of Commissioners convened a housing workshop including presentations from Thomas Eddington of czbLLC, Tim Hoone of Tolowa Dee-ni Nation, county staff, and members of the Curry Housing Task Force. A video stream of that meeting can be found here.
The goal of the initial project remains the same: to coordinate the development of plans for the workforce and subsidized housing and housing vulnerable populations in our coastal communities. For more information or to get involved, please contact:
– Char Luther, Coos County Housing Action Team organizer (firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-297-9256)
– Rob Foster, Curry County Housing Task Force organizer (email@example.com, 951-491-9979)
~ THANK YOU TO OUR HOUSING STUDY SPONSORS ~
City of Bandon
City of Coos Bay
City of Myrtle Point
City of Port Orford
Coast Community Health
Coos Bay North Bend Rotary
Coos County Habitat for Humanity
Coos Curry Housing Authority
Coos Maintenance LLC
Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw Indians
Coquille Indian Tribe
Curry Homeless Coalition
Curry Realtor Board
Oregon Coast Community Action
Oregon Community Foundation
Rental Owners Association of SW Oregon
Southern Coos Hospital
Umpqua Community Property Management
Wild Rivers Coast Alliance