Probably no core issue on the North Coast has been guaranteed to spark discussion on this page more than affordable housing.
Over the years, we have vigorously campaigned for community leaders to treat the matter as a crisis. We cannot say that has happened, but as we read some recent headlines on our news pages we are encouraged.
Projects moving the front burner and breaking ground are all significant steps toward solving our constant problem. Job creation in the tourism and service industries generally means low-paying positions. So where are those workers going to live?
The showcase cause for celebration is the old State Hotel building on Marine Drive. It will take considerable work and time for the purchasers, all congregants at First Presbyterian Church, to bring the building up to code once the sale is a done deal.
It once was home for 50 studio apartments. Bringing some or all of those back into livable units could help fulfill a dynamic that urban planners often tout — that tenants living full-time in apartments above commercial properties aid considerably in creating a vital downtown core.
On the east side of town, developer Walt Postlewait from Craft3 seeks to build the Northpost Apartments on property between 31st and 32nd streets, near Safeway and the Astoria Riverwalk.
That will add 66 units to the mix, some to be used as short-term rentals and others for affordable rental apartments.
Another 12-unit apartment complex on Alameda Avenue in Astoria, previously used as a sober-living facility by Klean Treatment Centers, is planned now its Astoria owners have sold the building.
While rents at these may be out of the range of people working low-income jobs, it is pleasing to see more options added to the community’s mix.
In Washington’s Pacific County, there are significant reasons for celebration. A 27-unit low-income apartment complex called Driftwood Point, on vacant land on 10th Street, just north of central Long Beach, attracted a host of applicants while the finishing touches were still being put on the buildings.
That project came about, in part, because the Joint Pacific County Housing Authority, the state of Washington, the city of Long Beach, and other advocates acknowledged the need — and looked at potential problems as challenges to overcome rather than reasons not to press ahead.
More recently, a couple has purchased the apartments at Sixth and Washington (which have had an admittedly checkered past), and begun investing in their refurbishment. Once completed, six more homes will be available for people to live on the Peninsula, close to downtown Long Beach.
Several factors contribute to a climate in which private developers are willing to risk investing capital into housing projects. These include local governments having clearly spelled out zoning and building regulations while addressing environmental and other concerns. Often, these projects succeed, in part, because an agency presents a welcoming and helpful approach. That must be signaled as policy by mayors and commissioners, and not merely rely on the personality of the planner or other staff members who receive the applications.
All this signals more variety in housing options in our coastal communities. Astoria and the Long Beach Peninsula are attractive and desirable places to work. But without an affordable place to call home, that dream is out of reach.
Taken together, these projects show more positive, concrete action than we can recall in a long, long time.