Jan. 26, 2019 — More people than ever seem to be discovering the beauty and charm of the Oregon coast each year, many deciding to relocate either their family or their business in and around Florence on a permanent basis. This increased interest has been welcomed by the business community and most residents, but there have been some tangential challenges that have arisen as Florence has gained positive, high-profile recognition nationwide.
Perhaps the most impactful of these unintended consequences is the current shortage of available housing.
The local real estate market has rebounded over the past few years, with many long-time residents taking advantage of the robust market to sell their property. This presents a challenge to renters, and to potential home buyers, as the cost for both rental units and homes continues to rise steadily and the number of available places to live is rapidly diminishing.
This lack of available affordable housing has a ripple effect, in that employers have few options for housing for workers that they have hired for projects of all types. This shortage of housing would be less noticeable if there were more Florence area residents that were prepared to work in the construction industry. Unfortunately, the pool of skilled workers for almost all parts of the construction sector is nearly non-existent.
This means that workers have to be brought in from other locations and there are not enough places available to house these workers.
This shortage of places to house workers often delays, or even cancels, construction of all types from occurring.
The City of Florence is aware of this problem and has taken a number of steps to address this obvious need.
Florence City Council, in consultation with staff from the Planning Department, have made changes to the regulations builders must meet to make it easier to build with the hope that a number of homes can be completed and occupied quickly.
One of the most anticipated of these changes in zoning allows for much smaller homes to be built. These units are commonly referred to as Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) and they may provide a reasonably priced way to quickly add to the local housing inventory.
The city has put in place a streamlined planning process to assist builders in obtaining the necessary permits to build ADUs and one organization is poised to move forward focusing solely on the construction of ADUs, the Heart of the Coast Housing Alliance.
Eric Hauptman is the head of this new group, which has seen the changes in regulations and believes the construction of ADUs is a priority for the city.
“The housing alliance’s plan is to market the advantages of ADUs to homeowners in our targeted areas. The Florence City Council has addressed the building of ADUs by fast tracking applications as well as waiving system development charges,” he said.
In June 2018, the State of Oregon required that counties and municipalities begin permitting ADUs in every residential zoning district.
However, there are several variables to consider when applying for permits to build ADUs — including the availability of water and sewer services and available parking being primary among them.
The Heart of the Coast Housing Alliance also has plans to start a construction facility to produce ADUs in town, using local labor to produce the units. The group also intends on providing instruction to those wishing to learn a construction related trade.
Hauptman says the inclusion of a teaching component to the mix will provide some long-term options for young people in the area.
“It is also the intent of the alliance to construct ADUs locally in an enclosed production facility, which will include classrooms for instruction in basic construction technology skills reinforced by hands-on training on the production floor,” Hauptman said. “We also propose to enlist the support of journeymen and educators for our classrooms. The opportunity to learn by producing will be available to interested students of all ages.”
The process of locating and securing a production and education facility are in the initial stages at this time but Hauptman is optimistic an appropriate space can be secured.
“We would prefer finding an existing building and converting it rather than having to build from the ground up. Challenges would be finding both a classroom facility and a manufacturing facility. Of course, financial support is crucial, as is support from the City of Florence,” he said.
Other needs include instructors, the selection of subject matter and classroom equipment, textbooks and tools.
The Heart of the Coast Housing Alliance also realizes this effort is only a small part of the needed solution to Florence’s housing shortfall.
“Our objective is to, perhaps in a limited but effective way, address an issue that, left unchecked could negatively impact the economies of western Lane County for years to come,” Hauptman said.
For more information on the Heart of the Coast Housing Alliance, contact [email protected]