A 2.5-acre lot off Clay Street bordering YMCA Park will be sold to Housing Authority of Jackson County in conjunction with the lot the city offered the nonprofit three years ago for affordable housing projects, the Ashland city administrator said Wednesday.
Ashland offered in 2015 to sell the lot across Villard Street from Snowberry Brook, a 60-unit low-income housing project built by HAJC in 2010. The plan was postponed when two city commissions denied a permit to remove a large cottonwood tree on the site.
The site resurfaced in the news last week when a different nonprofit, spearheaded by Ashlander Karen Logan and funded by Lloyd Matthew Haines, announced its offer to use the land to build a tiny house community for women and children.
The nonprofit would buy the lot at the intersection at Clay Street and Villard Street and ask the city to lease it the adjacent lot for $1 a year. But that adjacent lot was previously promised to HAJC.
Logan said her project, which would provide a group house and 12 to 15 tiny houses, is a winning situation for all.
“We are offering to move the tiny houses (which would be built on the lot promised to HAJC), once HAJC is ready to build,” Logan said. “But we need this housing now. Homeless women and children are happening now. Not next year. Not later.”
City staff said in an interview on Jan. 31 that it’s up to the council to decide.
“It’s not a desire from the council right now,” city Administrator John Karns said Wednesday of the tiny house project. “They like the idea of tiny houses, but we encouraged her to look at other sites in the city for her project.”
Karns added that the city, partnering with Ashland Parks and Recreation, is moving forward to finalize a transaction with the Housing Authority that will add an adjacent vacant lot to the deal for 0.78 acres of land. The additional land belongs to the parks commission, which had considered turning it into a dog park, according to minutes of an April 2016 meeting.
The land will be designated for affordable housing, Karns said.
“(Real estate transactions) tend to take a while,” Karns said of why it takes more than three years to finalize. “But we have been discussing for the last three to four months this possibility.”
Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Elzy declined to comment on the details of the deal with Ashland Wednesday, citing public records law that protects information about pending real estate transactions.
“We continue to work with the city,” Elzy said. “At the time, there’s no indication that the deal is not moving forward.”
When the tree removal permit was denied in 2016, the city revised its offer to include a smaller lot east of the original offer. That cut down the proposed amount of units from 20 to 15 to 17 units.
The additional lot will allow more low-income units, as Snowberry Brook is up to its capacity and can no longer accept applications on its wait list. The apartment complex offers one-bedroom units at $505 per month and three-bedroom units for $685 per month to tenants with a gross income of no more than $20,500 for one person and up to $36,300 for seven people.
Karns didn’t disclose the total amount the Housing Authority will pay for the land.
Logan spoke to the City Council during the public comment period on Tuesday night, saying she hoped to get a non-binding letter of interest so she could apply for two city grants totaling up to $650,000.
“We have three committed working partners — St. Vincent Paul, Rogue Retreat and SquareOne Village,” Logan said Wednesday. “(Since last week) I have gotten an offer of donations. … People want to see this happen in Ashland.”
Logan said she’ll keep working to make the tiny house project happen, adding she will continue to ask the City Council to hold a special public meeting to grant her a letter of interest before the Feb. 16 deadline to apply for the two grants.
The sale would also mean the parks commission would need to identify another lot in the city for its dog park project, one of the top five goals for the biennium, according to parks Director Michael Black at the 2016 meeting.
Black didn’t respond to a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.
— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.