Almost a year after City Attorney Tammy Herdener released a report on the lack of affordable housing options for working families in Cannon Beach, the City Council officially appointed six members to its Affordable Housing Advisory Task Force.
The members are:
• Duane Johnson, owner of Duane Johnson Real Estate
• Todd Johnston, executive director at Northwest Oregon Housing Authority
• Ken McQuhae, a retired engineer and Cannon Beach resident
• Dave Norstedt, vice president of operations at Martin Hospitality
• Brandon Ogilvie, chairman of the city planning commission
• Sheri Russell, branch manager of Columbia Bank in Cannon Beach
City Councilor Melissa Cadwallader was appointed liaison to the committee in September.
Beginning in January, the task force will meet every four to six weeks for the next nine to 12 months, according to a draft work plan.
The task force is a “first step” toward addressing the affordable housing problem, said Cadwallader, who doesn’t yet know if she will be a voting member of the committee. “This is not paying lip service to the need.”
The goal is to reach consensus on recommendations for the council to consider.
The inability for many people who work in Cannon Beach to also reside in Cannon Beach has been discussed “for years and years,” Cadwallader said.
Herdener’s report revealed that more than two-thirds of renter households in Cannon Beach are “rent burdened,” meaning that they pay between 30 and 50 percent of their income on household needs. Meanwhile, almost one-fourth of households that own their own home are rent burdened.
At least 70 percent of people that live in Cannon Beach are paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent, she said.
Then there’s the “middle-income challenge”: Households with incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 a year earn too much money to live in either of the city’s government-subsidized housing projects — the Elk Creek Terrace Apartments on Elk Creek Road, and the Shorewood Apartments on South Spruce Street — yet earn too little to live anywhere else in Cannon Beach, according to the report.
Todd Johnston thinks that “the wages vs. the cost of living in Cannon Beach creates the biggest barrier” to finding a residence in the city.
“A lot of times ... people are forced to commute from other communities (like Seaside) where the cost of living is less,” he said. And “public transportation being sporadic, it’s hard for them to hold down a regular schedule or a regular job without a car,” Johnston added.
For this reason, many Cannon Beach businesses have trouble recruiting employees, according to a recent city survey.
Part of the problem is that “the city doesn’t have a lot of buildable land,” Ken McQuhae said. “Housing costs in Cannon Beach are quite high because it’s a destination resort, and so property values are high, and rents are high, because the rents tend to be short-term rentals for visitors.”
“It’s an expensive place to live,” said committee member Duane Johnson.
While preparing her report last year, Herdener discovered that long-term rental options are practically nonexistent in Cannon Beach.
The area’s median income per household in Clatsop County, which was about $50,000 in 2013, “precludes young families from buying or renting homes,” Cadwallader said.
“There are not many homes that are under a quarter million (dollars) or less,” McQuhae said.
Cadwallader stressed that the city must find a way to meet “the housing needs of the community so we maintain a viable contingency of young families.”
If there was an easy solution, “I think the city would have found it in the last five years they’ve been looking at the issue,” McQuhae said.
‘It’s an expensive place to live’
task force member