COOS COUNTY — Statewide and countywide housing shortages have prompted Coos County to conduct a comprehensive housing study, which is scheduled to begin in January.

Local officials have banded together after a summit last April to address homelessness and create a task force to address housing problems over the past few years.

“We have a housing shortage and in order to move forward and plan out what we need to do in our community, we need to really know what’s going on,” said Marcia Hart, executive director of United Way of Southwestern Oregon.

This statewide housing crisis isn’t just a concern of the homeless and vulnerable populations, but also many working class citizens who are having trouble finding affordable housing.

 “Lack of housing is a statewide issue and it’s a statewide issue for many reasons. You can’t just say its affordable housing or workforce housing, because frankly we have teachers and mid-level managers moving here that also can’t find a place to live,” County Commissioner Melissa Cribbins said.

Many different community leaders and agencies have banded together in support of this housing study. According to Hart, these agencies include nonprofits, local government, tribal organizations, and businesses that are all interested in solving the housing crisis in Coos County.

“This has been a huge project that has involved not only United Way, but a huge community effort. The whole purpose is to have a document in hand that our government officials, our planners, and our non-profit agencies can use to move forward,” Hart said.

Shortly after the housing study task force was formed, the area chapter of the United Way took on the leadership role of the project.

“The community has really come together … We put together a request for proposal that went out at the end of September, we received bids at the end of October, and we’re now in the final stages of putting together a service contract with a vendor we’ve selected to do the study,” Hart said.

The housing study is about 80-percent funded by donations and will likely see the remaining funds in the form of grants by the time the survey is scheduled to begin in early January.

A public meeting will be held Dec. 14 at the Coos History Museum to thank donors and introduce the team that will be conducting the survey.

Coos County, the cities of Coos Bay and North Bend, the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Rental Owners Association of Southwest Oregon, and Habitat for Humanity have all donated time and resources to this project.

Susan Nelson from the  property company E.L. Edwards said the housing market in Coos County is “on life support.”

According to Nelson many of Coos County’s issues stem from the 2008 housing crisis, which brought housing development in the area to a halt. Around three years ago the housing market began to show promise and Coos County saw an influx of retiree’s from neighboring states.

“In the past few years the percentage of our customers who are retirees jumped from 15 percent to 55 percent,” Nelson said.

While there’s nothing wrong with having a community of retirees, it does make it more difficult for working class people to find housing. Often driving up rental prices.

Nelson also claims that there is such a demand for housing in Coos County that within 72 hours of a house being on the market it sells.

“We know that the first step is to go ahead and commission a study. Get somebody who’s an expert to come in and do some research and tell why and what our housing issues are. They’ll also be able to tell us where the shortages are and how much. That’s something that local contractors can take to a lending institution when they’re trying to get money to build a new apartment building, or duplex,” Cribbins said. 

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