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Proposal opens door to 'cottage housing'

Smaller, more affordable housing units on residential lots scattered throughout the city would be allowed under a proposed ordinance up for hearings before the Planning and Housing commissions this week.

The ordinance would create the opportunity for small-house developments (less than 1,000 square feet) on vacant and underdeveloped properties within some residential zones.

It also would shrink space between homes to 6 feet for cottage houses as opposed to 12 feet for larger homes. There would be a minimum requirement of 200 feet of outdoor space. Cottages built at less than 800 square feet would need only one parking space.

“These cottages are typically made for purchase. It’s generally a home-owner type of product,” Planning Manager Bill Molnar told the council. “Communities like Ashland that have seen a tremendous increase in land costs and housing could really benefit from more units and smaller units.

“It creates an incentive for developers to build a smaller type of home,” Molnar said. “We’ve had several inquiries about this type of development.”

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Sept. 26, on the cottage house plan. The Housing Commission will consider it two days later. “There’s broad support on the Planning Commission,” said Commissioner Roger Pierce.

“I’m a big believer in this type of cottage housing,” said Councilor Greg Lemhouse. He asked how developers would feel about it. Molnar said the proposal was discussed with developers who assisted in making the proposed ordinance possible for them to work with. 

The plan, provided to the council by city planners, would be to “provide alternative types of housing for small households, provide high quality infill development which maintains traditional cottage amenities and proportions.”

The idea is to allow more houses per lot and accommodate future residents who may want or need smaller, more affordable homes.

The projected market rate would be $240,000 for an 800-square-foot home, according to the planning department. The current Ashland median home cost is roughly $400,000.

Ashland resident Ron Roth spoke in favor of options that bring more affordable housing without being specific about the proposed ordinance.

“When I moved here housing was not an issue,” Roth told councilors, while adding that the minimum wage has not kept up with housing costs. “We really need workforce housing. If there were going to be a new area of an urban growth boundary, the city could require that half of the buildable land by acreage be dedicated to some form of affordable housing.” He urged councilors to consider opening more land for buildable and more reasonably priced housing.

The City Council is expected to hear the proposal again after public hearings and commission consideration, possibly for the first reading of the ordinance on Nov. 7.

The plan would allow 6.6 cottages per acre, achieve targets for housing and employment in mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly areas and, according to the proposal, “participate in a regional housing strategy that strongly encourages a range of housing types.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.