Verde Village: a sign of things to come?
With the City Council considering a new ordinance that would lay the groundwork for more affordable housing in Ashland, an existing development, Verde Village, is an example of how that might look.
The 57-lot neighborhood is located at Nevada and Helman streets near the dog park. Affordable, smaller homes are a component of the first phase of the development, with units that sold for as low as $229,000.
The new ordinance would qualify more kinds of property as sites for smaller homes, including lots with an existing home, but with enough space for another.
A work in progress, Verde Village is being developed by Suncrest Homes and KDA Homes in a 50-50 partnership. The first phase, consisting of 29 lots, is nearly complete. Curbs are down and paving will begin next week for Phase II's 28 lots. Sewer and water lines and storm drains are in.
Charlie Hamilton of Suncrest said the village concept had its beginnings in an adjacent section of 15 townhomes called Rice Park.
“Technically that was the first phase,” Hamilton said.
Greg and Valerie Williams hatched plans in 2004 to build a “green” development on land that had been in their family for decades. But when the recession hit, the plans hit a snag.
In 2007, developers donated an acre of land and infrastructure on the property to Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation (RVCDC). It constructed the 15 units with sweat equity by the tenants under a 99-year land trust arrangement.
Hamilton noted that development was possible in part because RVCDC received system development charges deferrals of roughly $15,000 per unit, savings that were passed on in lower home prices.
RVCDC went bankrupt, but transferred the land trust to Neighborworks Umpqua in Roseburg, also a community development corporation.
Resale for a two-bedroom unit is restricted to $222,250 and $262,750 for a three-bedroom, he said.
Hamilton waited until 2014 to tackle development of the rest of the property, now known as Verde Village.
“I didn’t want to go it alone," he said, "so proposed a partnership to KDA and they agreed.”
The two companies bought the property and put in the infrastructure together, then divided the lots to develop.
Phase I has homes ranging in size from 600 to 1,400 square feet, the smaller ones commonly referred to as cottages, with prices that started at $229,000. They are all single family houses. Most are detached. A few have a common wall.
The second phase will have larger homes.
Laz Ayala, one of the three principals of KDA (the other two are Mark Knox and Dave DeCarlow), said Phase II homes will range in size from 1,200 to 2,100 square feet.
“The property has an aspect unique for Ashland,” Ayala said. “The land is relatively flat, allowing us to build more single-level homes.
“The larger Phase II homes probably will sell in the high 400s to the high 600s (thousands),” he said. “Build-out will be completed in about two years.”
The emphasis at Verde Village reflects its name. Verde is Spanish for green.
“We could be the first net-zero single family development in the state,” Hamilton said.
A net-zero building uses no more energy than is created on site. All homes in Verde Village have roofs that are designed for maximum direct exposure to the sun and are solar panel ready.
The homes also are “Earth Advantage” certified, some as “platinum.” Homes can be certified silver, gold or platinum and are scored in five areas: energy efficiency, healthy indoor air quality, resource efficiency, environmental responsibility and water conservation. Platinum is reserved for the highest scores.
Earth Advantage is a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate the creation of better buildings and move the building industry toward more sustainable practices.
Both Suncrest and KDA are building homes in other locations.
Hamilton, 55, who lives in Talent, builds custom homes throughout the county, in both rural and urban areas.
Ayala, 50, lives in Ashland and concentrates his work in Ashland. KDA built numerous homes in Meadowbrook Park II, built the Ridgeview property at Mountain Avenue and East Main Street and will soon begin developing “Ten Sixty-Eight,” the property at 1068 East Main St. in Ashland, just north of the high school football field.
“We’ll be moving the large farm home (3,265 square feet) forward 50 feet and then build clusters of smaller homes behind it and on the adjacent lot,” Ayala said.
Plans are to construct homes of 500, 750, 1,000, and 1,300 square feet. Cottages will be part of the scheme.
“We plan to begin construction in April of 2018,” he said.
Hamilton said Suncrest will be developing a 35-lot subdivision at William Way near the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production department building in Talent.
The biggest challenge to making housing affordable is the cost of the land.
“Land costs what it costs,” Hamilton said. “Increased density on smaller lots is how we are meeting the challenge.”
Ashland has no shortage of housing for those with more resources. The shortage is in workforce housing and housing for those with smaller incomes. Presently, such homes are built, for the most part, only as part of larger tracts.
That could change next month.
The City Council is expected to hear a first reading of the new affordable housing ordinance at its meeting on Nov. 7. If passed, developers could create smaller homes on various sized lots around the city, so long as the homes meet size requirements, have the required green space between units and have room for parking.
Who knows? It could become a cottage industry.
— Jim Flint is a retired newspaper editor and publisher living in Ashland. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.