Many priced out of Ashland market

City analysis: Disparity in income and most housing
Rice Park, a recent development containing affordable housing, is near the Ashland Dog Park off Nevada Street. An analysis completed by the city of Ashland found only 22 percent of homes in the city cost less than $279,300, leaving 76.2 percent of Ashland households unable to afford them.Julia Moore

Ashland has a surplus of houses that are unaffordable to most residents and not enough moderately priced houses and rental apartments to meet people's needs, according to a city of Ashland draft Housing Needs Analysis.

The study found that only 22 percent of houses for sale in Ashland cost less than $279,300. A household would have to earn $75,000 to buy a house priced at $285,000 — the average price for houses that sold in Ashland in 2011, the analysis said. But a majority of Ashland households — 76.2 percent — earn less than $75,000 per year.

The median household income in Ashland is $40,140, lower than the rest of Jackson County, Oregon and the nation, according to the analysis.

Ashland has a relatively high number of university students and retired seniors, partially accounting for the town's low median household income.

There are an estimated 4,004 houses in Ashland valued at $279,300 or more, but only 1,750 houses at those prices are needed, according to the analysis.

Meanwhile, 1,086 houses are valued at less than $279,300, but 3,803 less-expensive homes are needed, the analysis said.

Renters also are struggling to find affordable places to live.

The analysis showed that 63 percent of Ashland renters pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

That's up from 2000, when 53 percent of Ashland renters were burdened by housing costs. Households are considered financially burdened by housing costs when those costs exceed 30 percent of their income, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Ashland has a relatively small amount of land zoned for multi-family housing, which includes apartments, condominiums and townhouses.

Rather than build for-rent apartments, developers have tended to build and sell townhouses and convert rental apartments into condominiums, the analysis said.

The analysis found that workers employed in the fastest-growing employment sectors in Ashland — services and retail — don't make enough money to afford rent.

High housing costs are pushing workers to live outside Ashland and commute to town, increasing traffic and parking problems. High costs may also be contributing to falling school enrollment, the analysis found.

From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of people age 54 and younger fell, while the number of older people rose, according to U.S. Census data used for the analysis.

Ashland city staff members have suggested a number of strategies to help alleviate the affordable housing crunch.

"These suggestions are really a jumping-off point to have conversations about what we could do," said Ashland Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid. "These are ideas based on what other communities have done."

One possibility is to designate more land for multi-family housing and to require that apartments be built in some areas, disallowing townhouses and condominiums.

The city could encourage more development that mixes business and residential uses, and foster the redevelopment of buildings to provide housing, especially near employment centers and Southern Oregon University.

To encourage the construction of more affordable houses, the city could reduce minimum lot sizes to promote small houses.

Other ideas include loosening restrictions on manufactured housing and allowing accessory residential units — sometimes known as mother-in-law units — to be built in neighborhoods reserved for single-family houses.

The accessory units are allowed in multi-family housing zones.

The Ashland Planning Commission will review the Housing Needs Analysis during a meeting that starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Commissioners will decide whether to recommend adoption of the document to Ashland City Council.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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