Lincoln City City Council to reach out for help on dealing with “rogue” behavior, Warming Shelter Chapter 3, and partnering up with Portland non-profit to boost LC’s affordable housing stockThe Lincoln City City Council is still embroiled in a continuing political soap opera over what has been described by City Councilor Kip Ward, as a member of the council disclosing confidential city information to members of the public – information that was determined by law as confidential unless specifically made public by decision of the council to make it public.
No names were mentioned as to who the “confidential information leaker” was. Nor was the exact subject matter disclosed. In the end, the council decided to bring in a mediator from the Oregon League of Cites, an organizational brain-trust aimed to advise city councils on how to referee issues like this one.
The council also got an update from City Manager Richard Chandler that formal notice has been given to the homeless warming shelter in the old Taft Fire Station that its operations are illegal. The city notification contends the building is not properly zoned for such use and therefore is in violation of city and state laws.
There has been a lot of back and forth from both sides, which involves Mayor Don Williams because he owns the building and he continues to defend his tenants who received a $50,000 grant from the city to go toward shelter rent. At the time the city council had no idea the money would wind up in the Mayor’s pocket, which the Mayor defends because he said he did not know the warming shelter people would come knocking on his door asking to rent his old fire station. Mayor Williams also claims that when he voted with his fellow councilors to award the city grant to the non-profit, he had not negotiated in advance nor made a rental deal with the non-profit.
A city notice of violation was issued to the non-profit informing them they are using the building for purposes that do not comply with the zoning the building sits on. In response, the non-profit appealed the notice of violation to the city planning commission which handles such disputes. The planning commission will hear the case and then make a recommended decision to the city council who will then decide whether to refer the matter to a municipal court judge who will make a legally binding ruling.
From there, attorney fees and court costs may start playing a role.
The council also got an update from consultants who are helping the city design and build a new police station. The current one is old, cramped and a very inefficient facility to work in.
Consultants said they need to firm up the city council’s expectations of the new building. As for them, the consultants say that national trends show great attention to making police departments and sheriff’s offices and substations far more welcoming – not so austere as we’ve seen over the past fifty years.
But city councilors took it as possibly running up the costs of the new police station – one councilor even claiming the drawings he’d seen makes the police station look like the Taj Mahal. The council made it clear to the consultants that the city needs to see some budget figures before they move too quickly without knowing how much it will cost. The council was also told that the police department may have to operate out of a different location while the new city police station is built on the same site that it sits on today – just north of the outlet mall.
And finally, the city council followed the lead of Newport and Lincoln County to turn over a big chunk of the responsibility for providing affordable housing in Lincoln City to a very large non-profit in Portland that has had considerable success in producing affordable housing in the Portland area.
Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall and the director of a housing advocacy agency called Proud Ground, sought permission from the city council to turn over Lincoln City’s pledged contributions to affordable housing in Lincoln City to Proud Ground so they can take over the push for affordable housing, not only in Lincoln City, but throughout Lincoln County.
Hall told the council that funding for affordable housing must be consolidated into fewer and bigger hands like Proud Ground where the agency has over 250 affordable homes under its wing. The agency director said they can get more bang for the city’s buck because of the large role Proud Ground plays in affordable housing efforts statewide.
The director told the council that they can move two families into affordable homes very quickly in Lincoln City, with another three homes coming on line in Newport. And there are five more homes following those.
The deal is that Proud ground would eventually take over buildable lots in Lincoln City, the county and Newport. The agency would own them for 100 years thereby preserving their status strictly for affordable housing. With the land costs covered, lower income families can afford to have homes built with down payment assistance also offered by Proud Ground or other granting agencies.
The city council voted unanimously to go along with the proposal. City councilors pointed out that Lincoln County’s economic prosperity is being held back because housing prices are rising so fast, nobody except the well off can afford to buy a home here. Rental vacancies are less than 1%, so there’s no relief there either.
City and county planning departments across Oregon are frantically trying to come up with strategies to get lower income people into affordable homes which then frees up the homes, condos or apartments they were living in so rental vacancies can once again be pursued by locals and new arrivals to the county.
But planners and city councils know that it’ll take a sustained boom in affordable housing construction to not only produce shelter for low to middle class families, but also for middle to upper income families so they can continue to move to the coast and fill upper echelon jobs that too often go begging.
It’s all connected.
Many housing experts contend that traditional wood-frame homes will increasingly be aimed at higher income families due to their high cost. Meanwhile, a new high-tech version of modular housing is showing up all over the country in rural areas as single family homes, but also in cities as 4 story mid-rises. These far lower priced four story complexes have commercial stores on the bottom floor with three floors of apartments and/or condos above. It spreads land costs across multiple families including the businesses on the ground floor. It also pulls lower income families closer in to the heart of a city so they have easier and cheaper access to shopping, parks, entertainment and service sector jobs.