From Tillamook County Housing Commission Outreach Committee
Robert and Peggy Schumann moved out of the “Big City” and arrived in Wheeler about five years ago looking for a more affordable place they could call home. Even though Robert had 30+ years of construction experience, he had difficulty finding work in a new place with limited connections. Thus, he started his own business, Coast Construction.
Robert’s first job was to repair a building on Nehalem Blvd. in Wheeler that subsequently housed Wheeler Treasures, which Peggy ran for several years. The shop closed in early 2022 and Peggy now manages Coast Construction with her husband.
In late 2020, Robert and Peggy purchased a 1930s building in Wheeler in great need of love and repair. They are currently working to renovate the structure into five rental units, which they hope will be available this fall. The upper level will have one two-bedroom and three one-bedroom units with a shared laundry room and parking. Downstairs will host a manager’s unit, reserved for their employee because they know affordable housing for workers is very hard to come by in Tillamook County. The complex will also have a shop and yard space and possibly a small play area for kids.
As often happens when rehabilitating older buildings, there were unanticipated expenses. Before they could start working on kitchens, bathrooms, doors, windows, floors, and the like, they had to clean up the property and add signage, fencing, and other amenities. Those expenses plus increased material costs and supply chain issues are some of the challenges the Schumanns face. According to Robert, “It’s harder to get to finish now and keep rents low”. They want to keep rents in the $1000-$1200 range so they will be affordable to people with moderate incomes and assist in housing the people who work so hard in our community.
The Schumanns are hoping they will be eligible to apply for a new workforce housing grant funded in part by Tillamook County’s Short-Term Rental Operator License Fee. Funds are expected to be available for the first round of applications in July. Eligibility and scoring criteria are currently being developed by the Tillamook County Housing Commission’s Finance Committee. Applications submitted to the Housing Commission will be reviewed on a quarterly basis and sent to the Board of County Commissioners to make final award decisions. Full text of Ordinance #86 can be found here: https://www.co.tillamook.or.us/ordinances/short-term-rental-operator-license-fee-within-unincorporated-tillamook-county-and
The workforce housing grant fund is intended to help pencil out housing for those who earn 60-120% of the median family income. Workforce housing units typically rent too high for developers to qualify for low-income assistance but well below the market rate needed to generate a profit. In Tillamook County, there is a shortage of housing at all price levels, from starter houses to high-end homes. This has resulted in an affordability crisis that affects workers from all sectors of our local economy from tourism and natural resource industries to education and healthcare, as well as retirees on fixed incomes, people with disabilities, and other low-income groups who lack accessible and attainable housing.
Many factors have contributed to the housing crisis, so it will take a variety of solutions to solve it. The Schumanns’ project is an example of adaptive reuse, which involves rehabbing existing buildings that are already part of the landscape. This approach offers several benefits, like cost savings, preserving a connection to the past, and being more environmentally sustainable.
Besides giving new life to an old building, another source of inspiration for taking on this project is that they are acutely aware of the housing crisis after having watched two of their employees struggle to find places to live. As Peggy put it, “Our hearts are in it for others.” Robert added, “We want to help our community.”
The Schumanns are also chipping away at the missing middle—modest, medium-density developments that range from two to six dwelling units on a lot. Every unit added to the local supply helps lessen the housing crisis, helping to ensure people in our community have a stable place to lay their heads at night.
The Schumanns’ adaptive reuse approach is one win. Providing five updated rental units ready for people to live in and hoping for a retirement income for themselves are two more wins, making this project a Win-Win-Win, a commendable and worthy outcome.
Listen to the January interview on KTIL’s Tillamook Today with Peggy Schumann and Tillamook County’s Housing Coordinator, T.J. Fiorelli:
Tillamook Today on KTIL will feature more interviews with the Tillamook County Housing Commission on Mar 22 and April 26.
This story is brought to you by the Tillamook County Housing Commission’s outreach effort to increase workforce housing in Tillamook County. For more housing stories and information, visit www.co.tillamook.or.us/bc-hc. If you have a housing story to share, email it to TillamookCoHousingCommission@gmail.com.