Nov. 28, 2022 — “Housing options are scarce and expensive,” one respondent to the recent City of Florence Housing Implementation Plan (HIP) Open House survey wrote. “I am 31, a single parent, and work full time at our hospital. I am a third generation resident, not a California transplant. I make $20/hour at my job, and I struggle to afford the rent for my home.”
Another commentator stated they were 70 years old, educated at Oxford, had received dozens of industry awards in their profession, “and yet cannot afford housing despite currently working 3 jobs. The problem isn't so much the cost and lack of housing here as it is low wages and Social Security Administration rules that limit seniors.”
Some respondents feared housing had grown too quickly, that the “small town charm is now lost” and there needed to be a moratorium on new housing.
“Not enough infrastructure to support all the new growth. Long lines now at the understaffed grocery stores, long waits at now understaffed medical facilities, Rhododendron Drive speed limit too high for all the new subdivisions,” one respondent wrote.
But to staff those grocery stores, other respondents turned back to more housing.
“There just isn’t anything available for the people who actually RUN THIS TOWN, the grocery workers, waitresses, the everyday Joe hasn’t got a chance to live where they’re roots are,” one comment read. “It’s being stolen from the wealthy. I am one paycheck away from losing.”
The responses, which were all anonymous, were a part of a survey that was open from Sept. 29 through Oct. 17, the goal of which is to help the city better understand the community’s housing conditions and needs. Results will also help “inform which housing implementation strategies the city may pursue” in the future, per a report on the survey that was presented during a Nov. 8 open house, hosted by the City of Florence.
“I think it’s remarkable just how many people took the time to look through that survey and to answer questions, and even to provide some open-ended comments,” said Darci Rudzinski of MIG/APG, a research firm. Along with Johnson Economics, MIG/APG have been working with the city on updating city code on issues related to housing.
More than 600 people took part in the survey itself, which Rudzinski said was an excellent turnout.
From here, HIP and its partners will be drafting recommendations based on findings from the survey, along with other research, community conversations, and work from subcommittees on topics such as transitional housing and short-term rentals.
“We are going to go to the city council and Planning Commission and update those folks on all the work that's been done to date,” Rudzinski said of HIP’s plans in the coming months, with the next official meeting in February.
In Part I of this two-part series, Siuslaw News looks at the statistics and opinions of those surveyed, which present a wide view of the community’s viewpoints on the challenges and promises of housing.
Types of homes
“The price for renting a home, apartment or duplex, is extremely too expensive,” one response read. “That is the reason my daughter and son-in-law are living with us,” stated another response. “[I] am sure there are many other families with their children living with their parents.”
Across the board, respondents felt the region needed more “affordable housing.”
89.7% of respondents said that “increasing the supply of affordable housing in Florence” was either “extremely important” (19.92%) or “important” (19.7%).
86% said Florence needed to “ensure a variety of different housing types are available.”
78% said there needed to be more opportunities for homeownership, with high marks in creating more opportunities for renting apartments and homes as well.
“At least once a week there is someone on Florence, Oregon Facebook wanting to move to Florence for a job or just want to move here and are looking for an affordable place to stay,” one response said.
When asked to rank “What types of housing are most needed in Florence now and in coming years,” respondents chose the following:
“Manufactured dwellings or mobile homes” and “Accessory Dwelling Units” came in at 24.66% and 24.96%, respectively. “Tiny homes,” which garnered a lot of support, were surveyed in the transitional housing section, which will be covered in next week's edition of the Siuslaw News.
Various types of apartments were mentioned in the comments:
“Single Story Condos for Seniors, Independent Living Senior Complexes.”
“Studio condos for seniors. Tiny home communities for all. Also, housing for our young people (servers, and support workers).”
“Dormitory/motel model. Many young single and older single people would be fine renting studios for less space and less money.”
But some respondents cautioned against a focus on rentals.
“As a potential real estate investor and friend to many other potential investors, our biggest fear is destructive tenants and inability to remove them. Focus on bringing good Jobs here,” one response read.
Others focused on single-family homes that “young, first time home buyers who are in the Florence workforce” could buy.
“Mix of affordable housing options, from single detached to apartments and cottage clusters,” one comment read. “Singles & couples may be fine with apartments, but some family situations are better in single-family detached. No one-size-fits all for affordable [housing].”
And others simply said, “It doesn't matter what kind, as long as local people can ACTUALLY AFFORD to live here!”
“We’ve lived here 35 years, in that time, housing has ALWAYS been an issue,” one comment read. “The goal was for rich white landowners (RWL) to keep the working poor taking care of the RWL and keep the working poor, poor.”
When asked to rate what “specific challenges to housing development,” the city faced, 56.09% listed “construction costs” as a concern, followed by 45.26% saying there “wasn’t enough variety in housing types” e.g. duplexes, apartments, etc.
But when asked further what challenges were, blame was passed around to all sectors.
The word “greed” came up more than a few times when people examined reasons behind the shortage, with one response stating, “The greed of the few elites is killing the working class this town depends on for a work force and nobody cares enough to do anything that will create actual results. … This town does not care about ordinary people or helping out the less fortunate.”
Another comment echoed, “Locals who have lived here their whole life can’t afford to live in the only place they’ve known. Our town has been taken over by the wealthy and the real estate brokers have turned into sharks.”
Those comments were often matched by difficulties for developers.
“Builders are driven by a basic profit motive,” a response read. “There is more profit in large, executive type homes, so that is what they build. We need a change in the incentives so that more affordable housing is built.”
Another read, “The existing planning and public works requirements make it so the only way for builders to make money is to build gated communities.”
For builders, permits, particularly through the county, were difficult to obtain.
“Takes FOREVER to get building permits, and approval,” one comment read. “I see 4 properties right now that are moving so slowly that it has been 2 YEARS to get them even partway built. My brother in San Diego had his big house done in 8 months.”
One response blamed private equity companies “buying up houses and apartment buildings and jacking up the rent — You didn't even mention gentrification.”
Another looked to protect renters.
“Pricing of rentals should be in-line with what people are being paid and owners should be able to be protected from renters who don't pay rent or destroy the property,” it read.
There were multiple comments about the environmental impact that housing could have on the region.
“Just like in other growing communities I’m seeing massive environmental destruction here,” one response read. “Our beautiful, unique coastal forests are being mowed down right and left. And I wonder about our water supply? No one ever talks about the aquifer.”
One comment stated the city “must address the repercussions of climate change in terms of sea level rise, flooding, fire hazard, population growth and real estate values.”
City leaders were sometimes criticized for not addressing issues — “They are not interested in providing housing for lower income people, only insofar as it relates to the Bay Street workforce.”
One commentator questioned the entire culture of the town.
“I feel that this town wants a certain demographic to live here and that excludes people of color and individuals under the poverty level,” a response read.
One person simply wrote, “All factors make it difficult.”
“We need to leave the existing land alone; it once was beautiful and green and now Florence is becoming crowded and moving toward a big city attitude,” one comment read. “Florence is a retirement city with an attraction for tourism.”
Another was left wondering what the future of Florence will look like.
“None of the choices address the desire of current residents to keep Florence's small town flavor,” another comment read. “What exactly does the city see for the future of Florence? Continued growth? How much?”
Concerns were particularly strong over traffic issues, which one response said was “a big problem — Safely getting in and out of residential areas to proceed on 126 or 101 is dangerous as there are not enough traffic signals and the speed limits are not adhered to.”
Some suggested targeting for growth.
“Add affordable ‘workforce’ housing in high-density zones only,” read one response. “DO NOT damage or destroy the character of existing neighborhoods w/high density, reduced lot sizes, increasing lot coverage, and adding cheaper housing types.”
Others looked at specific areas of town, such as the Quince Street area being developed for apartments. Others envisioned larger investments into revitalizing the town.
“More consideration to developing dilapidated areas inside the City limits. Quit spreading out along Highway 101,” one comment read. “Put money into razing old structures and replacing them with APPROPRIATE buildings whether it's a home, cottage cluster or small business.”
Others thought parts of Highway 101 needed more development.
“The city should consider using redevelopment funds to revitalize areas on both sides of 101. Mixed use development with commercial adjacent to 101 and housing behind the commercial would be one thought,” one comment read.
One respondent thought the entire “community structure” needed to be reconsidered — “a more inclusive model where many kinds of people live in proximity to each other, and where work and amenities might be within walking, biking, or reasonable transportation distances.”
A few emphatically asked for restrictions on age restricted developments, with one saying, “STOP 55 AND OLDER AND GATED COMMUNITIES!!!!”
But others looked at how generations interact with one another.
“I want to re-vision institutional senior living with a model that has younger people that can’t afford housing with seniors that have no family or assistance in Florence,” one response.
One response described careful planning between developers and city planners.
“There needs to be planning that ties the housing to the overall community with walkable paths, bike lanes on streets, parks and open space,” it read.
But overall, any idea was on the table.
"Neighborhood with open space for kids and pets, shared laundry, etc. Geared towards old town employees with shuttles. More out of the box housing ideas,” read one response.
Another read, “We need to be creative and open to ideas in order to be both attractive and effective.”
In next week’s edition, the second half of this series will look at transitional housing, the unhoused, short-term rentals and strategies the city is considering to help with these issues.
To follow the progress of HIP and sign up for updates, or learn more about HIP, visit the City of Florence’s website at https://www.ci.florence.or.us/planning/housing-implementation-plan-project.