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Housing, homelessness drive Gearhart concerns

City to enter into county agreement
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on September 8, 2017 7:22AM

Last changed on September 8, 2017 4:38PM

Alan Evans, CEO and founder of Helping Hands Re-entry, addresses the Gearhart City Council.

R.J. Marx/The Daily Astorian

Alan Evans, CEO and founder of Helping Hands Re-entry, addresses the Gearhart City Council.

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GEARHART — In a city where the median home price reaches $424,000, housing issues take center stage.

Before Wednesday night’s City Council meeting was over, the council had taken in a request for funding from Helping Hands Re-entry and resolved to enter into an agreement with the county and other cities on a $100,000 housing study.

In June, County Manager Cameron Moore suggested Gearhart partner with other cities to learn more about housing issues. A similar six-month study by Tillamook County identified specific data about the area’s housing market and possible solutions.

The Clatsop County agreement recognizes the “lack of housing options is creating barriers to continued economic growth.”

Businesses are struggling to retain and attract employees because they cannot find housing or cannot afford the housing that might be available, according to the agreement.

Cannon Beach, Seaside, Warrenton, Astoria and Gearhart have been asked to provide $10,000 toward the estimated $100,000 cost of the project. The county will pledge $50,000.

According to the agreement, the county will hire a consultant to assist in understanding the type, size, location and price of housing needed to meet the current and future needs of county residents, along with market forces, regulations and local barriers that impact housing development.

“This is a good opportunity for partnership with the county and cities of Clatsop County,” City Administrator Chad Sweet wrote in a staff report.

City Attorney Peter Watts said there is a general consensus of a housing emergency in the county, and growing pressure for cities to conduct these types of studies.

Cost savings will come from teaming with the county, rather than preparing an independent study, he added.

Funding for the housing study partnership will come from the city’s planning fund, Sweet said. The fund contains $14,950.

Mayor Matt Brown and City Councilors Paulina Cockrum, Dan Jesse and Sue Lorain voted to support the partnership. Councilor Kerry Smith was absent.

Request for shelter funds

In a public comment period before the regular meeting, Alan Evans, chief executive officer and founder of Helping Hands, requested support for his organization. Helping Hands provides shelter and re-entry services through 11 facilities with 190 beds a night in four counties. In Seaside, Helping Hands provides up to 60 beds a night.

“All the cities provide assistance and we’ve always wondered how come Gearhart hasn’t offered us an opportunity to apply,” Evans said. “I had a conversation with somebody who said, ‘Have you asked?’ The answer is ‘No, I haven’t.’”

Evans cited an increase in need and a housing crisis “like we’ve never seen before in the last year.”

“We’ve had a increase of 6 percent in the last year in children needing services. In our community,” he said. “We had an 18 percent increase in the elderly needing assistance in this community. And a 35 percent increase in people needing services in the last two years.”

Evans delivered a letter and annual report to councilors, who agreed to consider the request at a future budget session.


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