CareOregon will convert a Seaside hotel into housing for the region’s healthcare workforce and Oregon Health Plan (OHP) members with behavioral health needs.
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The health plan purchased Seaside’s Red Lion Inn & Suites, and will create 50-60 housing units there, with two-thirds of the units reserved for the healthcare workforce. Columbia Pacific CCO—which serves more than 35,000 OHP members living in Clatsop, Columbia, and Tillamook counties—will operate the housing units with its partners, Clatsop Behavioral Health and Clatsop Community Action.
“Over the past several years as we’ve engaged in conversations about what our region needs to be healthy, we’ve continuously heard that housing is among our greatest needs,” Columbia Pacific Executive Director Mimi Haley said in a statement. “Converting the Red Lion into housing for providers and community members is part of a larger strategy to improve overall community health.”
By providing market rate units for providers, Columbia Pacific will help address barriers that prevent healthcare organizations from attracting new staff to the region.
“Our hospital often loses potential employees because of the lack of available housing in our region,” Providence Seaside Hospital Director of Finance Pam Cooper said. “We have staff driving in from Tillamook County and Washington state. It’s challenging, especially when folks are on call, and need to be able to respond within 30 minutes of being called to come in. I spend a lot of my time trying to find leases, find rooms, [and] make arrangements with Airbnbs so we can have our shifts covered. This investment is going to help us address this need.”
A lack of affordable housing options for healthcare workers is a concern in other parts of the state as well, including Central Oregon.
The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that would provide converted affordable housing for workers in urban growth areas. House Bill 2984 would make more affordable housing available by requiring local governments to allow for the conversion of buildings located within an urban growth boundary from commercial use to residential use for workforce housing, without requiring a zone change or conditional use permit.
HB 2984 is sponsored by Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), and the House Committee on Housing and Homelessness held a public hearing for it on March 2nd. No action has been taken on the bill yet.
The CareOregon project’s units that will not house healthcare workers will be utilized as permanent supportive housing for Columbia Pacific members with behavioral health needs. Clatsop Behavioral Health will provide onsite housing assistance for them.
“The per capita rate of houselessness in Clatsop County is the highest in the state by a long shot,” Clatsop Behavioral Health Executive Director Amy Baker said. “It’s six times the state average. So, being able to provide permanent supportive housing, it’s going to make a tremendous difference in our community. Access to housing for our employees will be a gamechanger. Our agency loses about 30% of the applicants in our job pipeline because of lack of housing. This project is part of the solution.”
The facility is expected to be open to residents by spring 2024. Columbia Pacific’s focus on housing investment is a response to community feedback. Access to safe, affordable housing was identified in the organization’s 2019-2024 Regional Health Improvement Plan as a top priority in the region. More than 1,900 community members provided feedback for the plan.