A harder line on short-term rentals?

By R.J. Marx

Seaside Signal

Authors of a new county housing study came to Seaside to unveil results from the report.

“This process is not over,” announced project manager Brendan Buckley of Johnson Economics, a co-author of the study.

Buckley and Jamin Kimmell of Angelo Planning Group presented two hours of numbers confirming what many in the audience already knew: there’s not enough workforce housing and for too many, housing is completely out of reach.

Kimmell said a key strategy should be to keep higher-density development at a higher-density level, to make sure that land is used for multifamily or town-homes. For coastal cities that are more constrained like Cannon Beach, Seaside and Gearhart, existing lots that can be developed, accessory dwelling units and other approaches could be used to increase availability.

While there seems to be enough supply of land and housing in terms of numbers, much of the supply is serving the short-term rental market, leaving not enough for year-round and workforce housing — “the missing middle: townhomes, cottage clusters and other types of homes that can attract first-time home buyers,” Buckley said. “Where will local housing go that won’t just be used as vacation houses?”

Freeing up properties used as short-term rentals or vacation rental dwellings was considered a driving force in promoting housing availability.

“You might want to think about it as putting commercial uses in a residential area,” Buckley said.

Renting out homes is a commercial use, like a hotel room, he added. “Thinking of it in those terms can help frame it and differentiate it from someone’s second home.”

Members of the audience, including South County officials, businesspeople and residents, picked up on this theme.

“Looking at the ages of the people in my residential neighborhood here in Seaside and looking at many of them and realizing they won’t be here after two or three more years, and they’ll be selling their houses,” an audience member commented. “The trend I see is people from outside saying, ‘I’m going to make a big buck, I’m going to buy a house and turn it into a vacation rental.’ I’ve seen that happen. It seems there’s a rubber stamp that goes on top of all those. I’m seeing our neighborhood become a VRD.”

Others pointed to homeowners who, they said, rented their homes “under the table.”

The Clatsop County Housing Study, taken with the participation of the five county cities of Warrenton, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Astoria and Gearhart, with the unincorporated townships around the county.

The study profiles and analyzes the current countywide housing supply, housing and demographic trends.

Using this information, the authors intend to review existing plans and develop projections based on data and policies.

Meeting the county’s need for housing of all types is the goal of the study.

The study, available at the county website, provides details on population growth, household characteristics and available land.

While the study says that there is “ample buildable land” throughout the county to fill need for the past two decades. Seaside is the most constrained compared to its 20-year housing need. Warrenton, Astoria and unincorporated areas have the most buildable land.

County growth is about 1 percent since 2000. Warrenton and Seaside are the fasting growing cities; Cannon Beach and Gearhart have been showing “slow and steady growth,” Buckley said.

Planners used the industry standard of 30 percent of gross income to determine how much a person can afford, Buckley said, a measure used by banks and government agencies.

Residents shared concerns that those figures don’t really reflect affordability.

“Could we say the numbers don’t translate into actual cost?” asked an audience member, adding that utilities, taxes and other necessities are not figured in.

Future studies could consider residential possibilities for soon-to-be vacated school properties in the Seaside School District, not included as available acreage in the study. Residents have the opportunity to comment on the document, with findings posted on the county’s website.

The completed document will include proposals for initiatives that may encourage more production of needed housing types, as well as recommendations on forming partnerships and “capacity-building” strategies.

Seaside Mayor Jay Barber shared the theme of regional collaboration, and like residents, recognized the need to address short-term rentals.

”The solutions to the issues we’ve seen on the screen is a regional, five-city solution,” he said.

“The mayors of these five cities are meeting soon to grapple with these,” Barber added. “One of the major issues clearly is that we need to revisit vacation rental policies. That will be high on my list and I think that’s true of the other councilors and other jurisdictions as well.”

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