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Editorial: The rent crisis

Ashland decided long ago that it would not expand its boundaries to accommodate population growth. Now the community is facing the consequences: a city with a tourism-based economy where the service workers who support that industry cannot afford to live.

That reality was brought home last week when members of the Southern Oregon Tenants Union made their voices heard on the Plaza as part of the National Renters' Week of Action.

Ashland's no-growth policy is only one of the complex reasons behind the soaring rental prices plaguing communities across the state. The Great Recession, which brought a halt to new construction of housing of all kinds, played a role, too. But the crisis — and that is what it is — is particularly acute in Ashland, which boasts the highest housing prices in the county, a regional university that brings students who need low-cost housing, and a limited stock of rentals.

According to one website, RentJungle.com, the average rent in Ashland is now $1,200 a month, a 23.45 percent increase over last year. A search for any rental up to $1,000 a month yielded three results. One was a federally subsidized assisted-living apartment; another was a house in the process of being sold.

Activists want the city to do what the Legislature hasn't: outlaw no-cause evictions. That might slow rent increases, but it won't solve the entire problem. Watch this space tomorrow for one other possibility: cottage housing, which might eventually help add rental units.