Above is where a major portion of new OSU-HMSC student housing might go. As you may recall, Oregon State University wants to build a big add-on to Hatfield Marine Science Center to accommodate an influx of up to 500 new marine science students studying at the facility at South Beach.
The classroom and instructional areas and professors are pretty well taken care of by OSU, but a sticky subject of housing for the students remains unresolved.
City of Newport officials have taken the situation seriously in that the big expansion to OSU-HMSC will be sending 500 students out across Newport, and South Beach especially, looking for somewhere to live. City Community Development Director Derrick Tokos told the Newport City Council Monday night that it’s going to take a partnership between OSU and the city to figure out where students are going to live and at what cost.
It was also mentioned that there is already a housing shortage in the Newport area – especially for low income families. If you suddenly drop 500 students and up to 100 new faculty into the community, housing shortages will only get worse, and it could produce an unanticipated rise in housing rental rates.
Community Development Director Derrick Tokos told the council that there are tools that Newport could use to spur more construction of student housing. The city might offer property tax exemptions for new apartments for the first ten years of their existence. That could bring down rental rates. Federal Community Development Block Grant funds might also be another avenue that would help subsidize construction costs of new low income/student housing. Thirdly the city could either reduce, postpone or forgive what are called system development charges that can amount to tens of thousands of dollars of city fees per dwelling unit.
In the end, the city council said these financial devices could help considerably with the first wave of students to the new OSU Marine Sciences College without making Newport’s current multi-family housing situation even tighter. The council said that while they’re poised to help OSU where they can, OSU must ultimately provide “some support” for dorms and/or student housing for their students.
Because of the tsunami inundation issues along Highway 101 through South Beach, OSU would likely prefer to have their student housing up 40th street at or near the campus of Oregon Coast Community College. Wilder Development, which has already built homes up there, indicated a willingness to work with the city and OSU to explore the art of the possible on student housing on some of their property up on 40th.
Tokos also indicated a need for the city’s urban renewal agency to encourage student-centered type retail/commercial along 101 and Ferry Slip Road within a convenient walk or bike-ride from student housing up at Wilder/OCCC.
The council’s final instructions to Tokos included regular contact with OSU to get some of these ideas off the drawing board and onto the ground. Councilors said they want the marine science students to be a plus for the community, not something that makes Newport’s housing situation even harder to deal with.