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A growing opportunity

Ashland planning commissioners have an opportunity to increase the supply of small, more-affordable rental housing units in a neighborhood that is ideal for it — if they offer incentives to developers to make that happen.

At issue is the Transit Triangle Strategy, a plan designed to guide infill development in the three-sided area bounded by Ashland Street, Siskiyou Boulevard and Tolman Creek Road. The area already is home to the most popular local stop for Rogue Valley Transportation District buses, at Bi-Mart. RVTD’s Route 10 accounts for half of all local bus riders.

As Planning Commissioner Michael Dawkins noted, the city decided long ago not to expand its urban growth boundary — the customary way cities add buildable land — but state law requires the city to maintain a 20-year supply of buildable land and accommodate increasing population. Relying on infill on existing lots to accomplish that makes it difficult to keep new housing affordable.

The Planning Commission is considering proposals to offer incentives to developers to build on lots in the transit triangle if they agree to make multi-family projects rentals rather than condos and limit 75 percent of units to 800 square feet or less to keep them more affordable.

Some commissioners worried those limitations might deter developers, but if they’re tied to incentives, the choice is up to the developer.

If the city doesn’t offer the incentives, what housing does get built will likely be less affordable and continue the transformation of Ashland into an enclave for the wealthy.