Clatsop, Tillamook and Western Washington counties have long depended on traditional Oregon industries of forestry, logging, farming and commercial fisheries to sustain economic vitality and livelihoods. However, over the past two decades or more, logging and commercial fishing have declined amid federal regulations and global market forces. At the same time, other industries have sustained substantial growth, including forest products, food processing, healthcare and tourism.
Also, over the last two decades, Oregon’s population has risen sharply, with statistics showing the state consistently in the top 5 places where people choose to live. Coupled with the fact that the Oregon Coast is a popular retirement location and second-home vacation area, pressure is being placed on the availability and affordability of housing for the workforce that supports the growing industries.
Employers are doubly challenged. While Clatsop and Tillamook Bay community colleges are stepping forward with customized training programs to meet the needs of the growing industries, the workforce situation is immediate – good paying jobs are going unfilled. Yet without available housing, companies can’t find or retain skilled workers. Hospitals and schools are short-handed. Businesses must limit hours because they don’t have the needed employees to cover shifts.
This workforce/housing issue is threatening local economies and communities. In Tillamook County we took advantage of SB 1533, which allows a county to impose a 1 percent construction excise tax on new building and remodel permits. The tax would have allowed us to hire a Housing Coordinator who would have worked with the NW Oregon Housing Authority and the Community Action Team to provide incentives to developers willing to provide workforce housing.
The Tillamook County voters did not approve the 1 percent tax. We are continuing our effort to find solutions. We have instructed our planning department to find land suitable for workforce housing and finding ways to streamline the permitting process.
As a Legislator I would look for customized training and additional programs to encourage subsided workforce housing.