By Laura Swanson
The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners at their meeting last week on Oct. 7 approved a resolution to
establish a Tillamook County Housing Task Force. The goal of the task force is to bring together stake holders from all geographic areas, and economic sectors to participate in a process to create a long-term housing plan for Tillamook County and to look for short-term creative solutions to address the extreme housing crisis in Tillamook County. Members of the Housing Task Force will include Erin Skaar, Executive Director of CARE, Melissa Carlson-Swanson, Branch Manager Oregon Food Bank Tillamook Services Center, and Commissioner Bill Baertlein.
“From the beginning of his term as commissioner, Bill has focused on human services,” said Skaar. “And early on, he recognized that housing, all types, was a problem.”
The Futures Council reports and community vitality project assessment showed the absence of any projects or plans for housing.
“Ask anyone in the county what the most critical issues are facing the county and housing will appear in the top three,” added Skaar.
The Headlight-Herald’s opinion poll in April of this year, asked “Do you think affordable housing is a problem in Tillamook County?” showed that 80 percent of those answering the poll agreed.
“What makes this such an important issue for Tillamook County is that it is not just low income housing that is not available, it is all types of housing,” Skaar said.
Employers are anxious to be a part of this effort as they are struggling to hire employees at all levels due to the housing shortage.
“All our major employers, the cheese factory, the hospital, the school districts have lost potential employees that tried to move here, but could not find affordable housing or even temporary rentals,” Skaar said.
In support of this effort, Charter has donated $1,500 toward the work of the housing task force. “Charter is pleased to support CARE and help further their mission to provide affordable housing,” says Marian Jackson, Charter’s director of government relations. “We hope that our contribution toward this effort, along with the efforts and contributions of many others, will improve the quality of life for many.”
The Housing Task Force has applied for a grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust to facilitate a housing assessment and address immediate affordable housing issues. “The task force has two main goals,” Skaar explained. “The long-term goal is a countywide housing assessment that inventories buildable lands and identifies that Tillamook County has issues that are uniquely difficult for development. This is the traditional, and time-consuming approach.
“The short-term plan is to capture the ‘low-hanging-fruit’ such as tiny houses, duplex and four-plex developments, bringing foreclosed, abandoned homes back into the available inventory,” Skaar continued. “And creative solutions that could make some of the vacation homes that sit empty for months out of year back into the rental market.”
For more information about the task force, how to participate or how to donate to the efforts, call Erin Skaar at 503-842-5261.