Ashland Seeks Housing Solutions at Rent Burden Forum
Home prices throughout Oregon have been rising in recent years, but Ashland’s real estate market has seen a dramatic surge.
At $549,900, the average home price is 25% more than someone would pay in Phoenix, the second most expensive city in the Rogue Valley, according to median home sale price data from the city from November 2021 to January 2022.
Jacksonville was the most expensive residential market, but Ashland city staff say homes sell less frequently in Jacksonville, which can skew the data.
More than half of Ashland residents earn less than the Jackson County median income.
“There’s this assumption that people in Ashland are wealthy,” says Ashland Housing and Human Services Commissioner Echo Fields. “That’s really not true. And that’s one thing that I think comes out of meetings like this is that kind of reality check of what we’re up against.
Nearly half of Ashland residents also live in cost-stressed households, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, whether renting or owning. This number jumps to 63% if we only consider the number of tenants who are burdened with rent.
Ashland is currently developing a housing strategy to outline what the city can do over the next eight years to create more affordable housing.
Fields says the barriers include the hilly perimeter of the city, which makes it harder to build more homes.
“We need to do some things, I think, like expand what’s called our urban growth frontier,” she says. “We’re probably going to have to do a more real annexation. It is politically extremely difficult. But without it, we simply won’t get the new housing stock we need.
The City asks residents to complete a community survey identify the highest priorities for tackling the housing crisis. Fields says the comments could help convince city council members to support politically difficult proposals.
The city plans to offer more financial incentives and loosen zoning laws to create more affordable housing, Fields said.
Other Ashland residents have spoken out in favor of the city’s three mobile home parks. Cynthia Dettman is part of Ashland’s Mobile Home Park Protection Committee.
She says under Oregon Lawmobile home owners receive just one year’s notice if a park is sold or closed, and residents receive a maximum of $9,000 in compensation.
Dettman says payment isn’t enough — because most “mobile” homes aren’t actually mobile — and will be abandoned if a park is closed, costing homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It’s not just about rent and affordability,” Dettman says. “But it’s also an opportunity for low-income people to become homeowners. Mobile home parks therefore represent low-income homeowners. »
Dettman says the city should enact protections for mobile home parks similar to a Portland Ordinance passed in 2018. This ordinance redefines mobile home park areas to be designated specifically for manufactured housing park use. Dettman says that would make it harder for developers to shut down a park and build something else in its place.
Fields says it’s difficult for the commission to identify and advocate for solutions without also having younger members.
“We need the voices of people who are in this younger age bracket, who have families, who can’t find housing in Ashland,” Fields said.
She expects more commission spaces to open in the near future and encourages young residents to apply to help guide the housing plan.
The community survey ends on October 14. City staff expects to adopt the strategic housing production plan by the end of the year.