Newport and Ashland’s 8-year housing production plans get state approval

By Rolando Hernandez (OPB)
Oct. 31, 2023 1 p.m.
The Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon, was constructed in 1936.

A file photo from June 2, 2020, shows the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport. Newport was among some of the first cities to have their 8-year housing strategy approved. Their plan includes looking into the use of urban renewal funds to build out infrastructure, provide tax exemptions and revisiting development codes.

Alan Sylvestre / OPB

The cities of Newport and Ashland were among the first cities in Oregon to receive approval for their housing production strategy.


A bill approved by the Oregon Legislature in 2019 requires all cities with more than 10,000 residents to create an eight-year plan for boosting housing in their communities.

Jan Kaplan is the mayor of Newport. He says the plan brings into focus the link between housing and labor shortages the coastal city is facing.

“We’ve lost out on so much talent that would have come into this community,” he said. “People who were offered jobs who came and looked for housing and then came back and said, ‘I can’t take the job. I can’t find a place that I can afford to live in.’”

One of the challenges, according to Kaplan, is the limited housing stock currently available amid high demand for second homes and vacation rentals in Newport.

Linda Reid is the housing program specialist for the city of Ashland. Like Newport, it too has a large number of vacation rentals to accommodate tourists. But it’s also a college town, which adds additional strain to the already tight housing market, according to Reid.


“Because of the demands for travelers’ accommodations and student housing, as well as housing for workers in the tourist industry and workers in general, … our rental costs and housing costs are pretty high,” she said.

Kaplan and Reid both agree that the geography of these cities pose additional challenges.

“Newport is a city that has a tremendous amount of gullies and streams that run through the city,” he said. “You may have an acre of land, but if it falls off on one end, you can’t build.”

In a recent interview with OPB, Gov. Tina Kotek said she wants lawmakers to pursue some changes in land use to allow homes to be built outside a city’s current urban growth boundary. While Reid is supportive of the idea, she worries about the additional cost cities could incur to revise existing codes.

“The development of properties within our urban growth boundary would require some pretty extensive infrastructure extensions, and in some areas the cost of that is prohibitive,” she said.

Newport and Ashland’s housing production plan lays out a number of strategies to boost new construction, from creating and using existing urban renewal funds to support infrastructure development to revising development codes and expanding property tax exemptions for homebuyers.

Newport’s plan also helped officials identify and tackle a need for housing among people experiencing homelessness beyond operating temporary warming centers. Last month, through an agreement with the county, Newport opened its first long-term winter shelter.

“We’ve at least mapped out what we’re hoping to do and have had some success,” Kaplan said. “That’s one of the things that’s in our plan and we can already check off.”

Jan Kaplan and Linda Reid spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller. Click play to listen to the full conversation: