ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University students have created a proposal they believe could provide more affordable housing in Ashland by altering the city's code to make manufactured houses cheaper to build.

ASHLAND — Southern Oregon University students have created a proposal they believe could provide more affordable housing in Ashland by altering the city's code to make manufactured houses cheaper to build.

The proposal, which will be presented to the city's Planning Commission on Tuesday, July 24, would alter regulations regarding manufactured housing on individual lots and in housing developments.

"Our real mission was to look at the code and see where the barriers were," said Patricia Acklin, a SOU professor working with the students. "The bigger picture was to find ways to increase the stock of affordable housing in Ashland."

Students in Acklin's Planning Issues class worked on two projects: to search for a solution to chronic homelessness and to overhaul the city's 20-year-old manufactured housing building code. Students went through the regulations line by line, comparing Ashland's requirements with federal and state law and other Oregon cities.

The final proposal, which included dozens of suggestions, was presented to the Ashland Housing Commission in May. It proposed removing arbitrary size requirements in the old code, including one that manufactured houses be at least 28 feet wide on individual lots and 12 feet wide in housing developments. The proposal also suggested dropping the requirement that individual lots have a freestanding garage or storage building on site.

"I think some of the changes, like changing the size or getting rid of the garage, could potentially make it less restrictive to construct a manufactured home on a single lot," said Maria Harris, Ashland planning manager. Harris said manufactured houses are typically far less expensive per square foot than stick-built houses.

Harris said manufactured housing could be turned into affordable rental properties, as well.

"It provides another option," said Harris. "Generally in an affordable housing project, you need several different options to meet different needs."

Ashland City Councilwoman Carol Voisin expressed her support for the proposal, adding that it could be a possible solution to the city's homeless problem.

"The answer to homelessness is shelter," said Voisin. "I'm encouraging them to look into it with great detail "… I think this is very timely, and the research is solid."

"When you look at the homeless literature, it's clear that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work," said Acklin. "For some people who are pressed out of the market, this could be a solution to high-quality rental housing. This would be another more affordable housing alternative."

Nils Holst is a freelance writer and Southern Oregon University student living in Ashland. Reach him at holstn@students.sou.edu.