Agendas and Minutes

Housing Commission (View All)

Regular Meeting

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

JANUARY 28, 2004

CALL TO ORDER - Vice Chair Kim Blackwolf called the meeting to order at 4:10 p.m

Members present: 0 Kim Blackwolf, Vice Chair
Jon Uto
Kim Miller
Joan Legg
Matt Small
New Members: Faye Weisler
Wendy Ostlund-Rutkai
Liz Peck
Absent Members: None
Council Liaison: Kate Jackson (present)
High School Liaison: None
SOU Liaison: None
Staff present: Bill Molnar, Senior Planner
Brandon Goldman, Housing Specialist
Sue Yates, Executive Secretary

APPROVAL OF MINUTES/AGENDA CHANGES -The meeting notes were approved.

Aaron Benjamin said there was some concern with the Bemis project (land behind the Lithia Springs Hotel) that had there been more affordable housing units there would have been more citizen sympathy for the project. Molnar said the applicants were only required to have one affordable unit. The only way to require the developer to include more affordable units would be to eliminate the state requirement against inclusionary zoning. He said he is not certain what we'd find at the state level if we try to change that requirement.

Rich Rohde, Oregon Action, reported the Jackson County Housing Coalition had a training, "Building Coalitions and Building the Base for Affordable Housing". It was well attended and well received. It is one in a series of workshops to be held. The next in the series is "Housing Resources". That meeting will be held on February 12th at 3:00 p.m. in Ashland (51 Winburn Way).

Rohde is also working with a group on how we frame issues of affordable housing and the best way to approach and build public support for affordable housing. Statewide, all groups are struggling for resources. The work Ashland does is not in isolation and will hopefully pay off with additional resources.

Ron Demele, Rogue Valley Community Development Corporation, asked that there be a place on the agenda each month for non-profits to report on their activities. He just received offers for each of the three affordable houses on Hersey Street.

The new Housing Commission members, Faye Weisler, Wendy Ostlund-Rutkai, and Liz Peck introduced themselves. Kate Jackson said she is the new Housing Commission Liaison.

Molnar introduced Brandon Goldman, new Housing Program Specialist. The other members and staff introduced themselves.

Legg suggested an orientation for the new commissioners and asked all old members to assist. Andy Dungan and Cate Hartzell said they would be willing to sit down with the new members. Molnar also encouraged the new members to meet with Staff.

Demele asked who would be handling the Community Development Block Grant program, as Goldman had been doing that job. Molnar said there would be a transition for Goldman into his new position and it was undecided who would be handling CDBG. Goldman's main duty will be to get the Action Plan going.

Blackwolf said she does not want to be the Chair permanently. She suggested electing a co-chair and secretary (timekeeper).

Dungan interjected that he would encourage members to find a way to deal with getting through each month's agenda.

Small volunteered to take the timekeeper's position and Uto volunteered as co-chair.

Dungan iterated that the new members need to be willing to spend time on this commission. The chair needs to coordinate and lead. There is an incredible learning curve.

Jackson thought it would be helpful to talk about the role of the Housing Commissioner. It is an advisory body that works with Staff. We have dedicated a fulltime staff person to help implement the Action Plan.

Blackwolf said she felt it was realistic to expect a commissioner to work about two hours a week on commission related tasks. The co-chair would fill in for the chair. She would hope that time outside the meetings would be devoted to subcommittee work.

Legg moved to elect Blackwolf as Chair and Uto as Co-Chair. Jackson seconded the motion and the motion unanimously carried. It was agreed Small would be the timekeeper.

STATUS OF THE ACTION PLAN - Molnar said there are six strategies related to the Action Plan. The plan states that we will look at City owned property for a source of funding (also a City Council goal). Molnar said the City owns two acres on Strawberry Lane. The Commission proposed that the Council partition the lots into four and sell with the major share with proceeds going into the Housing Trust Fund to be used for affordable housing. The Council agreed. The lots will be divided into half-acre parcels that should sell anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000 each. Jackson said the money is intended to be used for affordable housing, however, $214,000 will be used to buy out the CDBG portion of The Grove.

Cate Hartzell noted that only two parcels will be sold this year. The money will come in stages.

Blackwolf asked when the public hearing would occur for the disposition of the property. Molnar thought in about three months.

Jackson noted the Action Plan was not included in the new Housing Commissioner's binders.

Miller said affordable housing needs the will of the people and we don't have that in Ashland. The Education subcommittee started a brochure. They were going to begin work on a video in an attempt to educate the citizenry. Miller's priority would be for education.

Legg has the rough draft. The subcommittee wanted to add stories of real people who need affordable housing to live in Ashland. Blackwolf wondered, if between this meeting and the next, that the Education subcommittee could be reconstituted. Dungan said Chris Oswald could still help.

Allan Sandler said the citizenry wants affordable housing. It's the Staff, Commission and Council that need to be educated. There is a real lack of knowledge in city government about affordable housing. Jackson would agree. It is as though the Housing Commission has been sitting on the sidelines. They have not been directed to planning actions. We want to get more tools in our plan.

The Commissioners were interested in returning to the Action Plan next month.

Rohde inserted a procedural item. He would like to see the time inserted on the agenda for each item. The meeting begins at 4:00 p.m. If the first item is five minutes, insert 4:05 p.m.

Legg said she is the only one on the Education subcommittee. We have to work out a way to expand the committee to outside people.

Blackwolf reminded the Commission that the subcommittees included: Education, Funding, and Land Use.

Miller said he would like Goldman and Staff to bring things to the Commission, instead of the reverse.

POLICY CHANGE PROPOSALS - Discussion regarding major issues evaluation process
Blackwolf feels that if any major issue is brought before the Commission, that the first meeting would just involve discussion and that it be made clear that no decision would be made at that first meeting. An item would have to be brought before the Commission a second time before a decision would be made. That means that major issues would have to come before them far enough in advance to allow time for a second meeting. Small hoped that Goldman would be the one to help the Commission stay on top of this.

Miller suggested an agenda item be added that would be a reporting of all other commissions, if applicable.

Weisler said she would be in favor of a standard policy to have two meetings for items of major discussion unless it required some flexibility.

Jackson talked about "officializing" the work of the commissions. How formal do we want to be?

Molnar said some commissions by code require a formal recommendation.

Goldman wondered if the Commission should define "major issue".

Blackwolf said they would leave this as an "understanding" and see how it works.

Blackwolf wondered about public property that could be better utilized. Small said it is a great idea to use public property for affordable housing, but feels it should be dealt with individually for each piece of property that would come up.

Demele said as a non-profit developer, one of his big issues is land cost. It would help if there were a clear policy for use of public property. If they knew every piece of public property was available, that would open up possibilities. They wouldn't have to sell property, they could lease it.

Small believes if there is an opportunity for affordable housing, as a Commission, we would support it. Then it's up to Staff or the Council to decide if it is legal. It is the Housing Commission's job to look at projects and see if they are appropriate.

Hartzell said she likes to think of us as stewards of the public trust. What do we think is the highest and best use of the property?

Weisler said she thinks we need to identify the potential lands. What are the competing interests? Who are the partners? What are the funding sources? We have to promote affordable housing.

Demele wants the Commission to set clear parameters. He wants to know where he needs to spend his time.

Goldman has a buildable lands inventory map he can provide. It will identify parking lots. No one has looked at airspace.

Jackson asked Staff to come back with the issues that have been identified.

Molnar said Goldman has prepared the RFP/RFQ. Goldman said he provided a discussion draft. He reviewed the various sections. The legal requirements have not been reviewed by the City Attorney. He asked if the Commission would like him to bring back a more formal draft.

Hartzell asked if Goldman could make a list: one specific to parking lots and one specific to parking garages.

Sandler believes the RFP needs to be more general.

Blackwolf disagreed. It is a good framework. She wonders where people will park downtown. The more specifics we can talk about, the better.

Demele said they would probably not apply for this because they would have from $10,000 to $30,000 into it just for the proposal. He suggested a "set-aside".

Demele said the cover letter was not very strong. The target income needs to be stated. The parking lot is a City asset and he would rather see it leased. With regard to the Evaluation Criteria, he believes there should be a project description with the number of units, targeting low income, affordability. He would suggest 70 percent of the points based on these items.

Hartzell wants to insure there is an equal playing field.

NEXT MONTH' AGENDA - February 25, 2004

Ostlund believes there is ambiguity in the RFP. Non-profits could submit their requests in writing for changing the wording. She would like this on the agenda.

The items will need to be prioritized.

ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 6:05 p.m.

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