What can we learn from the Buildable Lands Study?

In 2007, the Tillamook County Planning Department contracted with Portland consultants Cogan, Owens, Cogan to undertake a Buildable Lands Study for the northernmost portion of the County - our Nehalem Bay area. Tom Bender, NeahCasa Board Chair, took an active role in the study process.

The study, mandated by State Land Use Goal 10, showed a major surplus of available buildable land throughout the area, confirming prior sewer and water studies. Nehalem Bay communities have an average of seven times the required 20-year inventory of buildable land within their Urban Growth Boundaries (UGBs).

HOWEVER, the study data (some of which was as much as 7 years old) also showed that 44% of current residents could not afford to buy their homes today. 2007 data from realtors indicates that number to be over 70%. Thus there is a huge lack of buildable land within the UGBs available at a price that can support housing affordable for over half of the community residents.

The data used by the study to determine housing affordability, besides being outdated, was based on "value," not actual current sales price data. Actual sales data from May 2007 for the UGBs shows prices a lot higher than is affordable for 85% of our community who have incomes of $75,000 or less:

  • Average lot price for 18 lots sold at $258,000, with a corresponding "home value" of $860,000.
  • Only two lots sold for prices affordable for incomes of $50,000 or less.
  • Average home sale prices for 74 homes was $474,000.
  • Only 12 homes sold for prices affordable for incomes of $75,000 or less
  • On May 3, 2007, MLS listings showed 29 available homes in the Manzanita/Neahkahnie area. Lowest listing was $399,000. Average was $652,000.
  • It listed one home in the Wheeler UGB, 3 in Nehalem UGB, and 14 in Manzanita/ Neahkahnie.

For 590 households, this confirms a drastic shortage of affordable housing.  See this information in chart form below.

With a projected growth of 290 more permanent-resident households over the next 20 years, plus impact of conversion of existing homes to vacation and short-term rental use, this situation is likely to become considerably more serious.

We conclude that requiring a 20-year inventory of buildable land is an insufficient mechanism on its own to ensure availability of affordable housing for the communities.

  • In part, Measure 5 which locked up property taxes, removed market incentives for a property owner to sell property for less than top-end prices.
  • Higher-density zoning does little to provide affordable housing for lower income residents in coastal resort communities, as most building activity in those zones is for high-income condo vacation homes.
  • Global warming may impact as much as 50% of the land area of the three community UGBs) of existing housing and buildable land.
  • State preemption of local funding sources (e.g. inclusionary zoning) used in other states prevents our communities from subsidized market acquisition of land for affordable housing.

With this land shortage in the UGBs for affordable community housing, property should be permitted to be brought into the UGBs when and where it can be demonstrated that it:

  • Will be used for unmet needs for permanently affordable housing for community residents,
  • Can be serviced in a timely and cost-efficient fashion, and
  • Is available at a cost that permits it to support housing for low-income residents.

Download Tom's Bender's Spring 2008 letter to the Land Conservation Development Commission (LCDC) on this topic.

Our cities need to amend their comprehensive plans or land use regulations to include new measures that demonstrably increase the likelihood that residential development will occur at densities sufficient to accommodate housing needs for the next 20 years.  So far none of our cities have been willing to do this. E.G., Frustrated by banging our heads against City and County short-sightedness & prejudice the 10th Street/Coyote Ridge property in Nehalem is moving forward under the aegis of Tom Bender and Lane deMoll, with help here and there, as appropriate, from NeahCasa.


This represents a shortfall of approximately 55 affordable homes a year for the three communities.

This represents a current shortage of 239 affordable homes for the three communities.