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Does Ashland have a rental crisis?

There’s a rent crisis in Ashland, as everyone knows. There aren’t many rentals available and, because demand is up, that means prices are also. 

This is very different from seven years ago, when the housing market crashed. People said it would bounce back and it did, which is nice if you own and rode out the crash. Ashland has a low rate of home ownership, 55 percent. Nationwide, it’s 66 percent. This means more renters here. 

A 5 percent vacancy rate is considered normal but Ashland’s is a stressful 1 to 2 percent. 

Why is this rental crisis happening? First of all, Ashland has a good climate, awesome schools and is rich in natural beauty and cultural benefits, as well as diversity and tolerance, a nice combination. People want to live here. 

Then, there’s the housing crash with lots of foreclosures and many of these homes, now in an appreciating market, are being held, vacant, by banks. Why not? They are making money and that, of course, is what it’s all about. 

Then you have the less-than-robust economy and wages of Southern Oregon, which has been going on since the Jacksonville gold rush, but, hey, we make up for it in quality of life, right? 

The rule of thumb is that you should pay no more than 30 percent of your income for housing. A quick scan of Craigslist shows: $1,050 for two-bedroom in the country by Talent, $1,500 for a three-bedroom in Ashland (and they want proof of $3,600 income, plus $30 for each adult for credit and criminal background check), a studio is $750, a two-bedroom apartment is $900 to $1,100, and a one-bedroom apartment in a house is $650. 

These are steep prices, but not impossible, and people are being forced to be creative in the ways they live together, and to live more simply, which are not the worst things in the world. 

We asked Ashlanders, do you rent? Has rent gone up? Do you think there’s a rental crisis in Ashland? If so, what caused it and how can we fix it and keep Ashland from being more of an upscale enclave than it already is? 

Caroline Scott — Well, you see a lot of homeless and I think they would like a place to live. I would say Ashland has a rental crisis, hell yeh! The rent used to be $75 but that was when I was in college a long time ago and your share for a bunk was $25 a month. Now that would be $900. It’s because of greedy landlords and the rising cost of living and low wages. But I heard the pay at WalMart went up a nickel. It’s a mess. 

Donna Mae Fiore — Yes, it’s a crisis. Several friends have had to move out of Ashland because of the cost of rent. We live near Mount Ashland and, because of age and health, want to move back down to town. We found the prices won’t let us live as we are now. It’s the most expensive place in Southern Oregon. We think we might have to move to Mexico. Ashland’s been our address since 1980 and we’d like to keep it that way. 

Sofia Stott — Yes, that’s what I hear from friends, a crisis. Prices are rising. My mom does a VRBO and says people who do that are doubling their rent now. That’s where the money is. The demand is there. More people are moving here. 

Jen Nelson — I believe so, though I’m not experiencing it personally. It’s because demand is high and supply low. People looking for a rental say the real estate companies have the monopoly on what’s available. 

Meg (declined to say last name) — Yes, it’s a crisis. I rent. I’ve lived here, back and forth with San Francisco, since 2011. It used to be easy. Three of us found a house and we were lucky to. Rent is real expensive, though our house, on the outskirts, was only $900. It seems a steal. It’s our secret. I feel real fortunate. I heard from friends it’s really difficult. Jobs are improving and I’m not sure it’s because of that. 

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.