By Nicholas A. Johnson | Original Article
March 5, 2018

COOS COUNTY — Coos County Housing Coalition has released new information collected by the urban planning consultant czbLLC that is currently conducting the county’s housing study.

The report is based on a data gained through public documents, as well as a survey given to 150 Coos Bay residents. It is important to note that this is not the consulting firm’s final report, which will be released alongside the Housing Coalitions Housing Summit planned for April 26.

According to the report, from 1950 to 2010 Coos County used to develop an average of 401 new housing units a year. Over the past six years there has been an average of only 73 new housing units a year, which is an 82 percent decline.

“The big eye opener for many of us was to see that how that level of housing starts significantly diminished over time. That was really amazing to see that we haven’t been building new homes,” United Way of Southwest Oregon director and Housing Coalition leader Marcia Hart said.

It was also determined that a large number of homes have been taken out of the housing pool in recent years due to folks using them as vacation homes. Many of these homes are vacant and rented out by owners seasonally by online services like Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner. czb reports that there are 4,726 seasonal rentals in Coos County to their knowledge.

“That was very surprising to a lot of people. We did not know the level of VRBO and Airbnb and those kinds of vacation homes in our area. People think they’re all in Bandon, but they’re all over Coos County. That’s a problem throughout the U.S, especially in coastal areas,” Hart said.

Average poverty rates in Coos County were 18.1 percent as of 2016 according to the report.

“Looking at the poverty levels, there are several factors that are pushing on the crisis. Number one it’s the people who would like to purchase a home, there’s just not a home available in their price range even though they’re working. Then there are those that are either at the poverty level or below that are struggling to find apartments, and they often get into apartments that are too expensive for them,” Hart said.

The study shows that housing costs, for both renters and owners, are outpacing household wage increases by a two to one margin. According to czb, households in the $20,000 to $34,999 income range might buy a house if it were available.

Households in that price range likely rent. There are many rental units in the community that fall within the range of $500 to $999 per month. However, czb notes that the quality of these units is an issue.

“There’s going to be a lot of heavy lifting after the study is done. The hard part is going to be when we’re presenting the information coming together as a community to figure out what’s going to be the highest priority, where do we go from here, and how are we going to get the funding to fund some of these projects.”