Local landowners and developers can start sketching their ideas after the Ashland City Council unanimously passed a cottage housing ordinance this week.

The two-year project will allow developments of smaller and more affordable housing units in the city's five single-family housing zones, providing the option to add additional housing on more than 100 lots.

“There’s an appetite for this out there,” Brandon Goldman, the city’s senior planner, told the City Council Tuesday. “I would not be surprised that there are people who are listening in tonight who have already started to sketch designs for their cottage housing.”

The new ordinance, one of the city’s efforts to address the need for affordable housing, will allow a cluster of housing units that are smaller than 1,000 square feet to be built on empty lots or on a lot with an existing house. The zones allowed include areas on the west end of Ashland in the Ashland Mine Road area, between Oak Street and North Mountain Avenue north of Clinton Street, in the Normal Neighborhood and east of Interstate 5 in the area south of East Main Street and north of Highway 66 — areas that were identified as underdeveloped.

A development could have a maximum of 12 housing units, with 75 percent of the units smaller than 800 square feet. Each unit must have at least one parking spot and a private outdoor area. Setbacks of 6 feet are required between each unit and at least 20 percent of the lot must be common open space. Cottages cannot cast shadows on the roof of another cottage, in order to preserve solar access. The rules will allow a density of 6.6 units per acre.

The ordinance also stipulates that a lot, ranging between 7,500 and 11,250 square feet, depending on the zone it’s in, must have at least three units to qualify for the cottage housing option.

The city doesn’t know how many units will be created under this ordinance, Planning Commissioner Michael Dawkins said after the meeting.

“We have an inventory of underdeveloped land … a lot here, a lot there,” Dawkins said. “It’s impossible to tell.”

City staff estimated that the current market price for each unit would be about $240,000.

According to real estate sales figures released earlier this month, the median cost of 100 existing Ashland homes sold in August through October was $432,000. The median cost for all Jackson County homes sold during that time period was $270,000.

Dawkins stressed that cottage housing is not really an affordable housing solution, although it may give current residents more housing options.

“I hate putting this under the affordable housing,” Dawkins said. “Maybe people that have big homes on the hill will decide on moving into things like this, which will open up other properties — this is just another tool.

“I don’t think it will ever be solved — groovy places to live will always be more expensive,” he added.

Nonetheless, the council applauded the work by city staff and the planning commission on the project.

“I think it’s a great piece of work,” Councilor Dennis Slattery said. “It’s good to see it finally got through.”

“We hear people saying all the time … they want a quick fix,” Councilor Greg Lemhouse said. “There’s no quick fix — it needs several projects to gain momentum and they’ll change over time. I think this is one of them.”

The council also asked staff to come back next year to provide a report on the ordinance's effects.

— Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Tran Nguyen at tnguyen@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4485. Follow her on Twitter at @nguyenntrannn.