The Oregon Legislature can’t get housing right, on either side of the aisle. Like almost any spot in Oregon, Wallowa County faces a housing crunch that cripples the livelihood of many and threatens the heart of the local economy.
The growing force of tourism urges property owners to turn otherwise longterm housing rentals for local families into short term vacation rentals for visitors. At the same time, large-scale economic influencers like booming student debt and stagnate wages are keeping young families from purchasing property longer. The result? The future movers and shakers of our local economy can’t stay here for lack of a roof over their heads.
Oregon Democrats attempted to ease the burdens of renters by imposing the nation’s first state-wide rent control law. The spirit of the law is applaudable but a one sized hat doesn’t fit all in Oregon and the newly signed law shows just how little urban politicians understand the plight of rural Oregonians.
Sometimes economic variables diminish the natural checks and balances of a market system warranting heavy-handed regulations. But those regulations should be tailored to the markets that require them. Wallowa County isn’t seeing massive 100 percent rent increases like folks in Portland are realizing. Our problems lie elsewhere — so renters benefit very little and property owners shoulder disproportionate burdens.
And on the other hand, Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would stop local governments at the city and county level from regulating the amount of homes that are used as short-term vacation rentals. This effectively ties the hands of county commissions and city councils from implementing creative policy solutions to uniquely local problems.
Unlike the state-wide rent control law, this initiative directly impacts Wallowa County and rural communities like it.
Strong rural communities are inviting to young families. We emphasize our children in our school systems throughout our community but offer them nothing to return to when they’ve grown and have families of their own. When one stumbles upon a family-wage job they can’t stay because they can’t provide a roof for their children.
Wallowa County must find a creatively rural solution to its uniquely rural housing problem.