With a room full of people with strong opinions about vacation rentals, when the testimony finished, the commitment going forward was that more work needs to be done about Yachats’ vacation rental codes and guidelines.
Vacation rentals have become a booming tourist industry helping to fill the tax coffers of cities and counties around the country. And it’s no less important in Lincoln County. It’s good for the local economy in terms of room tax revenues, restaurants, watering holes, local retail shops and tour and fishing operators.
But with all that benefit has also come some problems as vocalized by permanent Yachats residents living near these vacation rentals. Top of the list, they told Yachats City Councilors that some vacation rentals are noisy, tenants park wherever they want, and leave trash blowing about.
Others said that housing has always been scarce in Yachats but lately its gotten worse. That’s because vacation rental owners are buying up more properties. In addition, foreign investors are parking their money in American real estate to protect and grow their investments. The result is a terrible shortage of affordable apartments and homes for those who want to live and work in the community. And many can’t. Gas is expensive, commutes are long and rents outside of Yachats aren’t that much lower. As was said earlier, the housing crisis stretches coast-to-coast. How much the Yachats City Council can do about it is likely to be on a not-too-distant future city council agenda. Especially the part about better policing vacation rental customers.
The idea of putting a cap on the number of vacation rentals is also expected to be discussed – rental caps are also quite common around the country. Often certain parts of a town or resort area are divided into sections with a maximum cap placed on each section. When that cap it hit – no more permits are issued in that particular area of town. Otherwise there would be nowhere for locals to live and for employees of tourism services to live.
Lincoln County is grappling with ways to create affordable housing but the last big surge in federally funded subsidized housing was back in the 70s and 80s. There are some projects still being approved, thanks to investment tax credit deals shepherded by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. But they are so few and far between that they hardly put a crack in the problem.
Meanwhile, more innovative housing technology is cutting housing costs in half but it’s a young and struggling industry. Cities and counties really have to do their homework in these fast changing times to determine just exactly what is the LOCAL art of the possible.
What seems to make the most sense in many communities is 3 to 4 story mid-rise multi-family pre-fabricated apartment buildings/condos designed to be inviting and satisfying to live in and at about half the price of regular construction. Such projects meet all state and local buildings codes and they’re being built every day across this county. Rising land prices almost demand that three or four families pitch in on the cost of the land they’re living over. Project time from signing to people moving in is a third of the time compared to standard construction.
Lots of homework.
On another issue the Yachats Library needs a new home and the city council appears ready to move it in to the 501 Building just to the north of The Commons. The building used to be a bank and so it’s well built. The city bought it a couple year ago, but it’s been pretty much just sitting there.
Library officials say besides their extensive book and reference collections, the building could easily hold community meetings for advocacy groups or just spontaneous discussions about any and all things about Yachats. The council appears to be ready to hire designers to ensure that the 501 Building is laid out in the most efficient way to not only serve the library but also those locals who love Yachats dearly and would never pass up a chance to meet in a 501 meeting room and guide it’s “community improvement” ouija piece around the town. So expect a ribbon cutting at the 501 Building, right there just north of City Hall, in the near future.