In the 1990s, Cannon Beach was a leader in providing affordable housing. The Community Development Corporation, of which I was a member, developed the Elk Creek Terrace apartments, and then the 12 unit subdivision on Elk Creek Road where many local residents were able to afford their first homes. A private company built the Shorewood apartments east of City Hall (despite the efforts of the City Council at the time to block it). Unfortunately, this momentum petered out, and no other effort has been made to build affordable housing since then. There are a number of reasons for this: the lack of available land is a large factor. Without the assistance and generosity of the Cannon Beach Conference Center, Elk Creek Terrace and the 12 houses would never have been built. No other organization stepped up to build affordable units after the CDC disbanded. Before the 2007 crash, apartments were converted to condominiums, limiting the availability of housing for low and moderate income households. Today, even families with incomes of $60,000 annually and higher can’t find rental housing, much less houses to buy.
In 2014, the City Council agreed to begin a housing program, starting with the development of a housing study. The study, guided by a task force of local citizens, identified several options, including the development of a portion of the RV park with small houses and more permanent rental housing elsewhere. Given the cost of land in Cannon Beach the study focused on land owned by the city, which would keep the cost per unit to a reasonable level. The Children’s Center site was identified as a potential area, but because of the needs and potential of the charter school, this site was excluded from consideration.
I applaud the City Council and staff, Brant Kucera and Mark Barnes, for their efforts to look for ways to house workers and others in Cannon Beach. The RV park option is still viable, and I hope five or more units can be available soon. I guarantee there will be a long waiting list when it happens. However, if Cannon Beach is to be other than a gated community where workers come in early and leave late, we must find other options for lower cost housing, or even housing that middle or higher income folks can find to rent. The 1 percent excise tax is a good start, but continuing efforts must be made to identify potential sites and to subsidize the infrastructure to develop the land. The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority needs to allocate resources to Cannon Beach, as it has done in North County. Private developers, some in our business community, need to step up and recognize that we need a diversity of income levels to be a real community.
Former Mayor, City of Cannon Beach