Southern Oregon Economic Conference panel discussion

Moderated by Scott Lewis:
David Crowe: Cost of building a house depends on materials costs. Prices are below the path we were on in the 1980s and 1990s. We’re a long ways a way from a bubble.
Where did the jobs go?
Josh Lehner: Lost 30-40% of construction jobs,number of licensed real estate agents has stabilized. Some of the laborers have shifted to oil and natural gas fields.
Tax rates and law enforcement
Cheryl Walker: It’s another milestone, not going to stop because lost one vote by 539 votes. Our private sector in Josephine County is making same slow recovery. Josephine Co. spending will go down for another year. We’ve had to rely on in migration and have seen class size shrink and closing another school. Some 17-18 percent of property owners live out of the area and that tells me they will still come to county. Growth of industries, live here work elsewhere, active seniors. She sees smaller footprint for new houses. First new subdivision filed in the past month, first in years.
Doug Breidenthal: Lot of the revenue problem we’ve seen is directly related to timber — the loss of tens of millions of ONC funds. Providing same level of service as 2006 with less revenue. Short term solution, no ifs, and or buts, is timber.
Don Skundrick: Thought the 1980s were going to be the blackest days would see. This second, Great Recession, was so much longer. In the 1980s all my customers went to Texas, where the oil money and jobs were. Now they are going to North Dakota and eastern Montana. On one hand, as we try to bring in young folks, they have to be able to afford a home. County average wage is $34,000. Why so many dual-income households trying to make ends meet.
What are Chamber members seeing need to be done for growth?
Brad Hicks: The economist validated what are members are saying, access to capital and confidence are big factors.
I like the positive trend. When there is money available, state and federal governments spend the money rather than look for savings.
Lawrence Yun: The Economist magazine said the US housing market is 10-15 percent underdeveloped.
Serious delinquent mortgages not as big a factor yet. Banks say only holding property back if there is a paperwork issue.
David Crowe: Said only empty houses are threat to supply. Shadow inventory not nearly as dangerous here than other places. As prices rise, less reason for shadow inventory issue and that it’s not a danger as prices go up.
Josh Lehner: Prices rise just a little faster than inflation. Lack of supply is boosting prices way above inflation, long-term they will fall back.
David Crowe: Regional bubbles, in every case declines in house prices and then in home ownership rates. Every time it’s comeback and exceeded previous levels. Mortgage is a forced savings program. That’s a primary reason why renters will want to buy houses.
Lawrence Yun: Mortgage interest deduction needs to be preserved. Solid majority of homeowners leads to societal stability.
David Crowe: May not get to 70 percent level of homeownership of peak, but will get close to that. Dodd Frank will remain, despite efforts to overthrow it. A lot was left to regulators, so it went way beyond tweaks. Regulations can be very onerous or difficult, but not impossible.

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    Greg Stiles

    Covering the Southern Oregon business and economy since 2001. Read Full
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