The Newport City Council was putting on a performance Monday night of depicting an irresistible force against an immovable object – the city council trying to use what scarce resources there are to actually build affordable housing. And their desire to build that housing is sincere and goes deep.
But there’s a lot of variables working against them. First, there’s the price of land. It’s getting more expensive by the hour. There is the price of streets, roads, sidewalks, water, sewer and storm water lines to service the homes, schools, police, fire and city hall that serve the people living in those homes. And it all costs money. By the barrel-full.
So where can the city council find the incentives to get the community going in the right direction? First off, there could be property tax breaks for new construction. Secondly, reductions on system development charges (SDCs) that go with new homes and businesses. Currently the average SDCs on a home is over $11,000 which covers the costs the city has to pay to provide urban services mentioned above. Businesses can run even higher. Those around the council table Monday night learned that they could lower those SDCs on a lot of new construction expected to occur over the next five to ten years. Right now SDCs are charged pretty much the same across the board. But big houses could be said to use higher quantities of water, sewer and other services than small ones. So the city may be willing to count sinks, faucets and toilets to determine SDCs – not just the fact that a house is a house and that they should all be charged the same.
Secondly, homes and businesses might be charged what’s called Construction Excise Taxes – a fee whose proceeds could go into a fund to help provide down payment money for lower income families who want to buy a home.
Then there are property tax exemptions or reductions if developers include lower cost apartments or condos in multi-family projects.
How much of a boost would these, and perhaps other incentives be for developers? City Community Development Director Derrick Tokos says the council will deliberate the possibilities in another meeting or two and then make up their minds which incentives, or combination of incentives, might be given a try. Tokos says Lincoln County is sparsely populated so any solution will actually be a series of solutions to match the needs and project possibilities whether they’re inside city limits or out in the unincorporated areas. Tokos says the council might take a swing at all this within a few weeks.
Meanwhile some housing developers that manufacture homes and deliver them to home sites are rising in prominence in that they can build a home in less than 60 days and have it secured to a concrete slap just a few days after it’s delivered. They’re strong, well insulated, and are said to be quite earthquake resistant – which comes in handy on the coast. In more densely populated areas the trend has become three-and-four-story high-rise apartment/condominium complexes whose housing costs per square foot is said to be considerably less than single family homes on individual lots.
So we’ll see what the Newport City Council comes up with.