If you are concerned about the shortage of affordable housing, and increasing use of residential properties in Hood River for short-term vacation rentals, Monday evening offers a chance to share your thoughts.
The Hood River City Council at 6 p.m. Aug 10 will hold a public hearing on a Draft Hood River Housing Strategy. The document, modified slightly after a June hearing before the Planning Commission, will guide city planners and legislative bodies as they craft changes to city code in the coming months. The council meets at 211 Second St. in Hood River.
The short message: the city has enough land to handle projected growth over the next 20 years … IF.
Consultant Beth Goodman with ECONorthwest, City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge, and members of a Technical Advisory Committee that got the ball rolling want people to know that, according to the strategy document, “If the City grows faster than expected or if development of secondary housing or short-term rentals grows substantially, the City will exhaust its supply of buildable residential land. In addition, the City’s supply of Urban High Density Residential land (R-3 land) is extremely limited.”
In other words, a weighting toward single-family homes — a growing number being used for second homes, or short-term vacation rentals — and insufficient land for apartment-style structures is creating a housing crunch.
The strategy approaches the crunch from three angles: 1) more efficient use of residential land, 2) regulating secondary housing and short-term rental uses, and 3) boosting affordable housing.
To help with that housing analysis, the city is also adopting a revised population forecast for 2007-2035.
In 2014, the population was 9,134 inside the urban growth boundary, which includes land inside the city limits, and land outside the city limits but currently designated for urban-level growth. The city is projecting a 2 percent annual growth rate, under which the urban growth area population in 2035 would be 13,845. Check a map of the city, which shows zoning inside city limits and between the city limits and urban growth boundary.
The strategy identifies several tactics that the city may want to adopt in efforts to increase efficiency of land use: rezoning for greater density, allowing town homes in more zones, reduce R-1 minimum lot size from 7,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet, reduce the R-2 lot size from 5,000 sf to as little as 2,500 sf; tune-up the planned unit development ordinance; develop code language to allow for small, detached “cottage” homes; and modify the accessory dwelling code to prevent use for short-term rentals.
That’s all well and good, but the real hot-button issue seems to be short-term rentals. According to the consultants, the number of Hood River homes used for short-term or secondary rental sits at just under 10 percent.
The strategy document recommends a number of approaches, from licensing and fees, to guidelines on occupancy and management, It also discusses limits on short-term rentals of more densely developed residences.
Former mayor Arthur Babitz shares his thoughts on the issue in an op-ed piece in the Saturday edition of the Hood River News. He thinks the trend toward vacation rental use is exacerbating the affordability — and livability — issue for many people drawn to the area by jobs in a diversifying economy.
Noting his concern that workers won’t be able to find affordable rentals — or purchases — near their jobs, Babitz says it’s time for the city to begin a closer look at the issue to prevent it from spinning out of control and dampening the ability of employers to recruit and retain the talent they need.