Agencies examine affordable housing

County’s economic coordinator will reveal findings of industrial lands survey

October 15, 2005

Hood River County might have 912 acres of land zoned for industrial use – but only 1.48 acres on three separate lots is free from development constraints.

Bill Fashing, the county’s economic development coordinator, will present that statistic, along with many others, at a special meeting on Monday. He will reveal the results of an industrial lands survey to officials from the county, the City of Hood River and the Port of Hood River at noon in the meeting room of the Charburger Restaurant, 4100 Westcliff Drive.

A second meeting between the county, the City of Cascade Locks and the Port of Cascade Locks will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Pavilion in Port Marine Park off WaNaPa Street in Cascade Locks.

Also to be discussed at the two forums is the hot button issue of affordable housing. This summer, a new study determined there was a widening gap between the cost of housing and the income of many county residents. Hood River County and the two city and port agencies split the bill for that study arranged through the Oregon Downtown Development Association. The analysis, undertaken by Marketek Inc., revealed that high housing costs within Hood River were pushing even middle-income and professional employees to live elsewhere. The Portland-based firm found that the typical house within Hood River sold for $229,921 and the cost was slightly lower in Cascade Locks and other areas of the county at $190,486.

Dave Meriwether, county administrator, would like to see the five concerned agencies collaborate to find workable solutions to these challenges.

“We are hoping that there will be a consensus, at least regarding the approach for dealing with the findings of these studies,” he said.

For the past six months, Fashing has been poring over both historical and current data to update the inventory of industrial lands. He said it was difficult to find property with access to the infrastructure necessary for development. Or, if the property had utilities, such as the 27 acres along Hood River’s waterfront, it was subject to political controversy that could make building difficult.

Within the county, Fashing said there are 230 acres available for industrial growth – if they can be hooked up to water and sewer services and if any conflict over usage can be resolved. The remainder of the 912 total acres is either already occupied or supporting an existing industry, such as a fruit packing plant.

Fashing and other local government leaders are concerned that a lack of industrial lands may ward off manufacturers. Companies, such as Cardinal IG in Odell, have been termed the “bread and butter” of a community since they provide more tax dollars than other properties. In addition, they create a payroll that is largedly invested back into the local economy.

Fashing said the two community needs are intermingled. Without a supply of homes that workers can afford, a manufacturer is unlikely to be drawn into the county.

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