Extension agent feels lucky to get a spot, knows others cannot

Joyce Senior, a Warrenton resident and employee at Oregon State University extension program, had some initial difficulty finding a rental in the area moving from the east coast. She is photographed here outside her place in Warrenton.

Preparing to move across the country from Clemson, South Carolina, to Clatsop County, Joyce Senior Googled and perused all the usual rental sites — Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com, Zillow.com — looking from Seaside to Hammond.

She would find a place she liked, then it would be gone in a week. Senior came close to putting a deposit down on a more economical apartment complex in Hammond, she said, before new co-workers came to her aid.

Senior now lives in a two-bedroom apartment at a newer development near Costco in Warrenton for $1,000 a month.

“I really wanted to be in newer construction,” she said. “I didn’t want to deal with house repairs and stuff breaking down because it’s too old, or deal with pests, or spiders or roaches.”

“I think that works for me. I feel like I’m halfway to Astoria, halfway to Seaside.”

Senior works as an outreach coordinator for Oregon State University’s Extension Service, teaching people across the county who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program how to eat healthy on a budget. After earning a Ph.D. in food technology from Clemson University, Senior knew she wanted to work for such a public service program.

She saw some similarities in Oregon to her native Costa Rica. After a strong interview with Oregon State, a local Extension Service provider, she started looking for a place.

“It was a tough decision, but I was just ready to move,” she said. “I knew my time in Clemson was done. I had my friend in Hillsboro, so I felt like I had someone” for support.

Senior said she was also supported by Norma Hernandez, a county health department coordinator who took her in while her apartment was being cleared.

“I found a place with all the amenities I wanted,” she said. “It’s a happy story for me.”

But Senior hears from the people she serves about their challenges in finding housing, and about the gentrification in Portland and other places. It reminds her somewhat of San Jose, her hometown and capital of Costa Rica. She said the housing market in Costa Rica is being inflated by people moving there who have more money than locals.

“I think it all boils down to the policies that are in place,” she said. “Without any policies, people can come in with money and get whatever they want, and make the price point go up, then others cannot afford it.

“There has to be some policy in place to honor the rights of the people who already live here, but also consider the people” moving here.

— Edward Stratton