By the Tillamook County Housing Commission Outreach Committee
Michele settled into one of two bright red resin Adirondack chairs on her lovely patio with fireplace outside her townhouse style condo nestled among the trees on a Manzanita gray fall afternoon . We started our conversation about townhouse living as an additional option for housing the “missing” workforce, but to the delight of her two little dogs, a light rain quickly drove us away. inside the surprisingly spacious two-story house at one end of the three-family triplex.
Michele and her husband bought their Manzanita townhouse sixteen years ago. They were working and living in Portland, so she never imagined she would be living full time on the coast; it would be their beach house to get away from. Its location is unbeatable: close to village shops, half a block from the green spaces of the golf course, a short walk from the tennis courts and not far from the beach. The couple visited the townhouse on a regular basis every two weeks and for three years Michele was delighted that her father could live in the condominium full time until his passing. Over time, Michelle’s priorities have changed – now she can no longer imagine not living in the Manzanita townhouse.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and Portland began to shut down, Michele and her husband were in the townhouse, so they stayed put. After two or three months, they realized that they could live full time on the coast. Exhausted after 25 years working in the juvenile probation system, Michele had already quit her job for a less stressful job as a fitness and yoga teacher. Her husband’s job allows her to work remotely most of the time. So they cut the cord and sold their Portland home.
The couple’s plan was to sell the condo and buy a single-family home in Manzanita to give them a little more space. They didn’t want an oversized, expensive home like so many new custom homes in Manzanita. And while they loved the shared community spaces in what locals call the nearby ‘Tiny Town’, these upscale ‘tiny houses’ were just too small (and expensive). In Tillamook County’s ever-tightening housing market, they discovered that homes available in their price range and desired size would need a lot of refurbishment or were not as conveniently located as their townhouse. .
“We couldn’t beat what we already had,” Michele concluded. To put a more precise point on this realization, she fell into reverie as she recounted how much she loved the view from her kitchen window of neighbors walking their dogs and tourists passing by on their way down to the beach. To add a little more space to the 1,500 square foot, 2 bedroom / 2 bathroom condo, they added the front yard patio and a shed under their back patio, currently under construction. “Even living here in a pandemic with half the resources, we still love it,” she said.
Townhouses tend to have a lower selling price than single-family homes, making them more accessible to many labor-intensive home buyers. The Michele neighborhood offers several examples of other tastefully designed multi-family residential condominiums of two to four units, scattered among the single-family homes that predominate in Manzanita. The adjoining two-story townhouse units are individually owned as single-family homes, but share at least one common wall. Often the owners of attached units form a Homeowners Association (HOA), which is financially responsible for the exterior maintenance and repair of their townhouses. The HOA also makes joint decisions, such as choosing the color to repaint the entire triplex, which Michele’s HOA is about to do.
Michele and her husband realize that they were lucky enough to be able to transform the beach condo they bought years ago into a more accessible housing market, into their permanent home. Reflecting on what can be done to increase the number of workforce housing in Tillamook County, Michele wondered if the county could create incentives, such as tax breaks, for developers to build. housing achievable by other than luxury home buyers.
More housing diversity would be a good thing, Michelle said. For example, a variety of large and small dwellings, including adjoining multi-family dwellings like his townhouse, might better meet the variety of existing needs. It’s not just low-income people who need housing, Michele pointed out, but also people who work with good jobs. Building smaller houses, even small houses, would be suitable not only for singles, but also for couples, empty nests and retirees.
“What we get in Manzanita instead are very large, expensive accommodations, which often turn into vacation rentals. Who will serve these homes and where are these service people going to live? “
The special circumstances of the pandemic turned out to be the catalyst that turned Michele’s vacation townhouse into his permanent home. But small multi-family multiplexes like his also provide a well-known model for adding more housing through slightly higher density with little disturbance to the character of the single-family neighborhoods that predominate in towns in Tillamook County.
Beginning in 2020, Oregon implemented HB 2001 *, a statewide law that encourages inclusive zoning to allow the construction of a variety of “mid-range housing” and more housing. affordable on land zoned for single family homes. In towns of Oregon with populations over 10,000, duplexes are permitted, and in towns of over 25,000, duplexes, triplexes, quads, and cottage groups are permitted. To be clear, this law does not ban single-family homes but facilitates the construction of alternative housing types in the interest of adding to existing housing supply and affordability.
Although the smaller size of towns in Tillamook County exempts them from this inclusive statewide ‘overzoning’, examples that already exist in some of our neighborhoods, such as Michele’s, demonstrate that multi-family homes are very much compatible with the lifestyles of rural counties. In light of the severe housing shortage, it may be wise for our cities to adopt a similar inclusive zoning reform to encourage the construction of houses of more diverse sizes at more affordable prices to add greater flexibility to homes. existing options for labor housing.
This story is brought to you by the Tillamook County Housing Commission outreach effort to increase workforce housing in Tillamook County. For more housing stories and information, visit www.co.tillamook.or.us/bc-hc. If you have a housing story to share, email it to [email protected]