Molalla needs to expand its UGB? Dream on!

Today’s Oregonian contained grim news: Oregon “SURGES” into the top 3 spot in the nation for foreclosures. Now, Oregon is just one position behind Florida and Nevada in foreclosure rates. Clackamas County was listed in the “top 10” on the Oregon list with a 5.2 foreclosure rate.

“It’s very discouraging,” said Tim Duy, an economics professor at the U of O. “For all those people who said, “No, we don’t have a housing bubble”, well we did.”

Jeff Manning’s Oregonian article quoted: “The rising foreclosure numbers are in part a function of timing. Oregon was late to enter the recession and it stands to reason that its foreclosure rate will stay higher longer than in other states that crashed earlier, said Joh Harwood, senior economist for the state of Oregon.”

Manning’s account continues with these observations: “Far from immune to the housing crash and resulting foreclosure wave, Oregon has proved to be exceptionally vulnerable to it. Between its large number of construction contractors, timber products workers, mortgage and real estate professionals, Oregon’s economy was over-reliant on the housing industry, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo.”

“Plus, Oregon’s relatively low-wage economy paired with rapidly appreciating housing prices to create a situation in which many Oregonians borrowed heavily to get in their homes. Many worsened their situation by tapping into their home equity via second and third-mortgages.” (End Manning/Oregonian quote)

Molalla’s “economy” was and is EXTRA vulnerable because of an over reliance on the above mentioned “construction contractors, timber products workers, mortgage and real estate professionals.” To a rational “outsider” it looks like those professions are just about all that Molalla built its “economy” on – now, Molalla’s over reliance on housing bubble based professions has burst for good.

So, when will the “rah-rah Molalla is growing, we need 2,400 acres of urban reserve, Walmart is coming, second Friday will save us, and we need a new school to serve the hordes of students in the future” rants end and local citizens and their backward “leaders” accept reality?

The sad part about Molalla is that the longer it refuses to see that no growth is Oregon’s future, the longer it refuses to accept what true demographics trends are here (less working families with school age children, more “immigrants and more childless senior citizen households), the less chance Molalla has of working on realistic plans for the future. Holding on to false hopes means the less chance Molalla will have to regroup and be competitive in the new, here to stay, no quick fix economic playing field.

The only “positive” course of action would be to regroup, look at what the realistic future holds – shrinking student census, far lower home values, lower wage to cost of living jobs, high unemployment  for the forseeable future, the fact that real economies can’t be based on building endless “a little cheaper than somewhere else” houses –  and work toward salvaging what’s left of the tax base by promoting quality of quantity.

Here’s the link to today’s bad Oregon housing market news – let’s hope TEAM/ city “leaders” take the time to read and understand facts for a change:  http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2010/07/oregon_forclosure_rate_falls_2.html

Maybe the plannin’ fools – like former “plannin” commissioner, now City Councilor, Michelle “we need more houses for a bigger tax base” Mills ” and  Mayor “we built houses”Clarke – might be starting to see the no growth writing on the wall by now?

Remember – when barely a year old Stoneplace Apts now is so desperate it has to accept SECTION 8 welfare vouchers it means that Molalla isn’t attracting working families. Section 8 in almost new housing means Molalla is sinking faster than close-in Metro communities and is now “attracting” people who have little hope of finding family wage jobs.

If Molalla had gone for quality, had promoted itself as exclusive, had charged quality of life promoting SDCs, and had restricted the rampant building of cheap houses in badly planned grids (and had hired a certified, college educated city planner!), maybe it would have been better positioned to weather this Great Recession. As it is, Molalla needs to take a hard cold look at what the future holds, quit dreaming and stop wasting everyone’s time and money on UGB growth baloney that obviously won’t come true.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. By allowing the city to be “planned” by a bunch of drooling “stuff it in” land speculators using an untrained  “guy” as a “planner” Molalla got what it deserved: the greed chickens have come home to roost, leaving Molalla an ugly, uncompetitive mess that savvy investors seeking quality will bypass in the future.

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