There are many factors that have pushed hundreds in Clackamas County out of stable housing. Among them are issues of unemployment, eviction, interpersonal conflict, mental or emotional health issues and unaffordable rent or housing.
"This is simply poverty, which can result from any sort of misfortune that is no fault of one's own," Vahid Brown of Clackamas County Health, Housing and Human Services said. "The leading cause of homelessness in Clackamas County is an inability to afford the rent. Period. The top four (reasons) have to do with economic conditions."
In Estacada, a 2019 Housing Needs Analysis found that a household earning Estacada's median income of $50,757 could afford about $1,250 per month in rent, or a home valued between $175,000 to $200,000, which is less than the median home sale price of about $299,900 in Estacada.
Though Estacada's median income was $50,757, around 48% of Estacada's households earn less than $50,000 per year.
"A household can start to afford median home sale prices at about 170% of Estacada's median household income," the Housing Needs Analysis stated.
The analysis found that from 2013-17, 78% of Estacada's housing was single-family detached. Between February 2015 and February 2019, the city's median average housing sale price rose from $234,900 to $299,900, a 28% increase.
According to the analysis, around 55% of renters and 25% of homeowners in Estacada are cost-burdened, meaning they spend 30% or more of their income on housing. The analysis stated that more affordable housing for both homeowners and renters is needed.
Compared to the county as a whole, 18% of residents were considered cost-burdened.
Most rental properties require a renter to make a monthly income of at least three times the rent to qualify to live there. A person who makes $25,000 annually technically would only qualify to rent a space that costs about $694 per month, while the average monthly rental cost in the county is $1,295. Median rents in Estacada are $648 per month.
Who is the development for?
In 2020, the city received 280 single-family home building permits. As of early April, 103 single-family building permits have been received this year. No multifamily building permits have been received in 2021, though two building permits were for accessory dwelling units.
A search on Apartments.com for rentals in Estacada found that there were no units currently open.
"The comparatively small share of multifamily units may constrain opportunities to rent in Estacada at all income levels," the Housing Needs analysis stated.
About 41% of Estacada's households are renters, and 58% live in multifamily housing.
One of Estacada's largest new subdivisions is Campanella Estates, developed by Pahlisch Homes. Construction on the 71.44-acre community began in 2018, and 300 homes will be built over the next decade. According to the Pahlisch Homes website, houses in the development start at $464,900.
In downtown Estacada, developer Heath Stalcup is planning to bring a mixed-use building with six apartments and commercial space on the ground floor to 344 S.E. Main St. Stalcup owns 21 rental properties in the area and strives to keep rent below market rate.
"I always feel like everyone needs a place to stay," Stalcup told the Estacada Urban Renewal Agency in February.
Supporting rural areas
At the county level, officials working with Health, Housing and Human Services see how disproportionate resources are for rural communities. People like Brown are working to change that.
Metro's Affordable Housing Services bond and the Supportive Housing Services measure may have an impact on bringing diverse housing to Estacada and other rural areas of the county. Though Estacada is outside Metro's boundaries, the new programs may allow the county to free up funds to use in rural areas.
The Metro Affordable Housing Bond is expected to generate around $250 million a year to fund services aimed at getting people into housing and keeping them there. The Supportive Housing Services measure would raise money for supportive housing services for people experiencing homelessness or (who are otherwise) at risk. It could generate around $51 million to $53 million a year.
These measures could free up the $8 million in federal money currently budgeted to address homelessness county-wide to help rural areas.
On Tuesday, April 13, the Housing Authority Board unanimously approved the Local Implementation Plan for the funds from the Supportive Housing Services Program. Next, the plan will move to the Regional Oversight Committee and Metro Council for review.
The county plans to launch the Supportive Housing Services Program in July 2021.
Brown noted that busing unhoused people out of smaller communities to places with existing resources isn't the answer to supporting these community members.
"Folks who are needing health care — behavioral health care, mental health care, any kind of health care — really need to access their health care where they live," Brown explained.
"All the things that we love about rural communities and the things that people who choose to live in real communities love about them, they're the same reasons why people who are houseless choose to live there, too," said Stacy England with Clackamas County mental health services.
What can be done?
In Estacada, Mayor Sean Drinkwine, Economic Developer Matt Lorenzen, City Planner Taylor Campi, Clackamas County Director of Housing and Housing Services Jill Smith, as well as Clackamas County Commissioners Martha Shrader, Mark Shull and Paul Savas, recently took a tour of potential locations for a subsidized housing complex. One site was near the Estacada Community Center and the other was near Campanella Estates.
Drink wine noted that funding has not yet been procured, but "the county was happy to see the locations we have."
The conversation was focused on what could be possible one day, and no decisions were finalized.
"It was a meet-and-greet to get to know the housing authority and to express willingness that Estacada would like to see more multifamily development. A lot of work would have to be done," Lorenzen said, noting that a big question would be about procuring funding.
He estimated that it would be three to five years before anything comes to fruition, if the project pans out.
Last September, the Estacada City Council formed a committee on housing affordability and diversity. During its Feb. 8 meeting, the council appointed nine members to the group, which will be focused on developing a strategy to encourage the construction of more multifamily housing options in the city.
The committee will present recommendations to the city council this summer.
Lorenzen said the group has been focusing on "clearing the path for multifamily development to occur."
Until last year, Lorenzen noted, there was little land zoned for multifamily development in the city's zoning map. The map was updated last year to allow more diverse housing options to be built. Prior to the update, the Housing Needs Analysis found that there were only 2 acres of buildable land designated for multifamily housing.
"That was obstacle number one," he said, adding that other difficulties for multifamily housing include parking requirements and system development charges.
Earlier this year, the Estacada City Council directed staff to develop a Vertical Housing Development Zone, which would offer a partial tax exemption to eligible projects to encourage higher density and mixed use residential development. The council may adopt a resolution pertaining to this as early as May.
Lorenzen said this may "incrementally increase" the housing inventory available in the downtown Estacada area.
"I'm hopeful that over time, the cumulative effect would be more units over the years," he said.
Lorenzen noted that the process of bringing in market rate multifamily housing and affordable, subsidized units are different.
"To create market rate multifamily housing, once you clear the path, it will probably come," he said. "Affordable housing is not something the market creates on its own."
Lorenzen spoke highly of Estacada's willingness to consider different options to create diverse types of housing.
"In many ways, Estacada is a leader among small cities. That's something to be proud of," he said.
This article is the final part of a series about the homelessness situation and related resources in the Sandy and Estacada areas.
Story one, Shelter from the storm: bit.ly/RuralHomelessness1
Story two, Preserving human dignity: bit.ly/RuralHomelessness2
Story three, Policing the homeless bit.ly/RuralHomelessness3
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