Agendas and Minutes

Housing Commission (View All)

Study Session

Saturday, July 23, 2005





JULY 23, 2005



Chair Matt Small called the meeting to order at 8:35 a.m. on July 23, 2005 at the Community Development and Engineering Services Building at 51 Winburn Way, Ashland, OR.


                Commissioners Present:                     Matt Small, Chair

                                                                                Carol Voisin

                                                                                Faye Weisler

                                                                                Alice Hardesty

                                                                                Don Mackin

                                                                                Bill Street

                Absent Members:                                  Liz Peck

                Council Liaison:                                   Cate Hartzell, present

                Staff Present:                                        Brandon Goldman, Housing Specialist

                Public Present:                                     Aaron Benjamin





Brandon Goldman introduced the agenda as presented as an all inclusive list of items that could be addressed by the Commission.  Matt Small questioned whether there was a single goal for the day.  Bill Street saw the issues list as overwhelming and wanted to use the Study session to articulate a goal for a 6 month – year period to come.  Carol Voisin agreed with Streets stated goal for the outcome of the Study Session.  Weisler suggested we look at significant activities for the coming year, not just the ‘low hanging fruit’, stating “we need to focus on getting housing on the ground”.



Commissioners discussed the role of the Commission in implementing strategies.  Voisin suggested creating a development plan, including the purchase of land.  Small stated that he did not see development as the role or “job” of the Commission. He elaborated that it is his impression that it is the role of the Commission to establish policies and regulations in support of affordable housing.  Street was concerned that focusing on housing development, at the exclusion of other activities, would not necessarily create a more affordable community.  Cate Hartzell said that sometimes you do things by creating the political will, and that you can't necessarily build yourself out of the problem. “We have the orientation from Council to create units” stated Hartzell.


Aaron Benjamin spoke to having a structure to support non-profits, or other entities, to achieve the goals of developing units. He said the commission should “measure success by creation of policies, and meeting the objectives of creating a climate facilitating entities out in the community”.  He feels the Commission has been successful and listed a number of recent land use changes and other activities that are attributable to the Commissions work.  Small saw it as a creative tension between different strategies.  Hardesty explained that regardless of Committee accomplishments the City is becoming increasingly gentrified, which is displacing people.  She understands the desire to have more tangible results.  Benjamin stated that the economic force creating gentrification of Ashland can’t be stopped entirely but that “we can provide incentives to make it easier for affordable housing development”. 


Hardesty voiced the need to persuade the School Board, Parks Department, and other land owners of the magnitude of the problem, and the need to have property dedicated for affordable housing.  She further recommended researching other communities, such as Basalt Colorado, as models.  She also suggested the Commission members write letters to the editor in a systematic way to keep housing issues in the forefront.  The commission spoke generally about outreach and the potential of having a rotating responsibility to write such letters. .Hardesty indicated that she could write such a letter to the Editor of the Daily Tidings to initiate the ‘campaign’.

Benjamin suggested Commissioners also should appear regularly at public meeting to raise the level of consciousness and public awareness about the issues the Housing Commission is dealing with.


Weisler expressed her frustration about not knowing enough about State programs and other funding sources.  Further she noted that when we were able to have the State’s (OHCS) regional representative present the time was too limited (15 minutes).


In response to the need for information about financing (from the State) Goldman explained that although the Commissioners may not be very familiar with existing Programs, affordable housing developers are familiar and are typically in attendance at conferences where sessions describe such programs in detail.  He questioned the extent to which the Commission needed to understand the details of financing programs given they are not actively developing housing.  Weisler was pleased to hear the non-profit housing developers are in attendance at such conferences, but felt the Commission needed more information to advise and understand projects that come before the Commission.  Hartzell concurred that it was important for the Commission to have a more comprehensive understanding of all the tools available to finance and develop housing and suggested further education with Darcy Strahan (OHCS) at a study session, and Diana Shavey as another housing expert the Commission could learn from. Hardesty recommended we also look at Section 108 and other resources to develop larger, potentially scattered site, “workforce” housing projects.  Goldman suggested that Darcy Strahan could potentially be available for a Housing Commission Study Session in October; Hartzell indicated Diana Shavey may be available in August.   Goldman stated that although a face-to-face meeting with the HUD specialist on Section 108 loans may not be likely, a conference call likely could be arranged.


Hartzell discussed the loss of existing affordable housing units (HUD housing).  Strategically she questioned what we would want to do to address these “vulnerable” properties.   Hartzell noted also the vulnerability of trailer parks as existing affordable housing that could be eliminated.  Goldman explained that you would likely need to identify such HUD properties at least  2-3 years before they are set to be available at market rates in order to get the funding in place to purchase them.  He also brought up condominium conversions as the Planning Commission was set to discuss the loss of rental housing through such ‘conversions’ on their July 26th Study Session.  Goldman explained the condominium conversion process and required affordability criteria within the ordinance. 



Small stated the discussion was leading to establishing new priorities and listed 1) Letter writing campaign, 2) Vulnerable areas, 3) focus of affordable housing development.  Voisin stated that the primary goal is to increase the amount of affordable housing, and focusing on acquisition is a means to achieve it.  Hartzell explained that she had pushed for acquisition and in speaking with Gino Grimaldi, he’d stated that staff could focus on this now.  Goldman explained that he had been given such direction by Grimaldi as a priority.


Don Mackin stated that the Commission should start with the understanding that Philip Lang should not be the individual that defines the commission's successes (referring to Lang’s testimony on July 18th.  Mackin explained Benjamin’s definition of success has merit, elaborating that focusing on a specific grant versus City regulations is  irrelevant in measuring affordable housing accomplishments.  He stated that awareness and recognition of the need for affordable housing is increasing noting Planning Commission discussions on recent proposals and the condominium conversion discussion set for the Planning Commission Study Session.  He recalled that a year ago the Housing Commission talked about creating a land acquisition task force, and the Commission as a whole chose not to do so at that time.  Mackin discussed that the affordable housing development of 20 years ago used incentives [3% loans] to develop units.  He further stated that “we need to look at developer incentives to develop workforce housing” noting that such incentives are not likely to happen at the federal level.  Mackin stated he saw merit in both Aaron’s and Carol’s perspectives, and thinks we should move forward with both strategies.  He concluded by circulating an article regarding the Tri-vest, OnTrack, and Living Opportunities  project and suggest Ashland seek feedback from the developer in order to understand their perceptions of the obstacles in Ashland. Essentially asking whether they looked at Ashland for such a project, and if so why they chose Medford instead.

Weisler mentioned that the Commission wanted to have such (developer meetings) a year ago and stated she thinks we need to be explicit about assigning responsibility to ensure follow through.


Small and Hartzell went over the existing and new priorities that have come out of the discussion in order to revise the agenda for the second half of the meeting.  The new priorities noted included”

-          Get actively involved with other City Agencies and other players in the housing arena

o        Tactics to include liaison positions, letters to the editors, developer meetings, meet with State and individual experts (OHCS)

-          Study other “model” communities

-          Investigate Section 108 HUD loans to use on a project

-          Address vulnerable areas

-          Employee/workforce Housing (City, Parks, Schools, major employers)

-          Land acquisition

-          Housing Trust fund Development


Weisler questioned how each agenda is normally established.  She took issue with Staff creating the agenda and suggested that the Chair and Vice-Chair take the lead role in creating the agendas for the Commission’s meetings.


Street asked Goldman about his role, and job duties.  Goldman explained that although he is liaison to the Housing Commission his directives come from his Department Head not the Housing Commission. He elaborated that his Department Head (Director of Community Development) gets direction from the City Administrator, who is responding to established Council goals and direction. Goldman stated he is responsible to support the Housing Commission but ultimately as the Commission makes recommendations to Council, and those become Council directives, it comes to the Housing Specialist in this “top-down” way .  He also spoke to his general responsibilities.  Hartzell asked how much of Goldman’s time is spent on region activities and whether CDBG duties have been reduced.  Goldman explained that Regional Housing issues are something he is focused on and as such regularly spends 10-15% of his time on such in working on the Workforce Housing Summit, the Homeless Task Force, the Jackson County Housing Coalition or other regional efforts.  Goldman explained that he remains largely responsible for the administration of the CDBG program although Derek Severson, Assistant Planner, is involved in completing environmental reviews and other administrative CDBG responsibilities.


Hardesty requested we examine terminology used to describe affordable housing (i.e. "workforce," "low income," "affordable") during the second part of the session. Doing such would be useful in developing campaign materials and consistency in speaking to other bodies (Planning Commission, Council, Parks, Schools, etc).  Benjamin requested an update from staff on the status of the Croman Property, the North Mountain area, and the Clay Street annexation. Hartzell suggested the sub-committees express their priorities and examine obstacles.  Street stated that he would like to discuss the priority of rental or ownership.


Mackin, noting that he had to leave before lunch due to other commitments, reviewed the Land Use Committee’s priorities.  He noted that vulnerable properties and land acquisition were new and thus had not been discussed.  He stated past priorities of identifying land for rezoning and land use changes have a Planning Commission relationship.



12:00 lunch was delivered and it was decided to continue the meeting through lunch following a short break.


Small relayed the Finance Committee’s priorities as being primarily the development of a Housing Trust Fund.  A timeline matrix was distributed to the Commission. He noted the need to get the development of a platform “unstuck” and to move it forward.  Commissioners discussed the need for more information regarding financing methods and suggested a workshop on methods for the benefit of developers and non-profits.  Small also noted the finance committee will continue to look at city fees, SDC's [which is before the full commission].


Hardesty, speaking as a member of the Education Committee, expressed issue with the statewide issues of Real Estate Transfer Fees, Inclusionary Zoning prohibition, and the need to lobby the State Legislature.  Hardesty explained that the outreach and education needs to focus on multiple avenues to remain in the forefront.  Letter writing campaigns so that the Tidings is publishing weekly letters [or forums] on Housing would be valuable.  Further the use of other media outlets [public TV – City Talk] and presentations to the City Council are vital according to Hardesty.  She suggested development of Campaign materials that speak a consistent message.  Goldman suggested contacting the Neighborhood Partnership Fund for the focus group messaging information they had assembled as a good starting point, noting they had created ads with tested messages for the Real Estate Transfer Tax Campaign two years ago.


Street initiated the Rental vs. Housing Conversation and elaborated that what he questioned was whether the concept of renting, instead of owning, could be more acceptable.  He stated that high quality schools, a high quality of life, and a desirable community could make young families choose to reside in Ashland even if they could not afford to buy a home. He stated the importance of fostering the family friendly image of Ashland to retain and attract young families. The discussion transitioned to an examination of a “preferred renter program” as a means of partnering qualified residents with vacant housing.  The assurance that landlords would have that their tenants be responsible may help reduce turnover and be beneficial to both the tenant and landlord. There was general discussion over vacancies and specifically the impact of vacation homes.  Goldman stated that the Planning Commission recently reviewed a B&B application and concern was raised over the amount of traveler’s accommodations.  He explained that the conversion of housing to traveler’s accommodations can, under certain circumstances, reduce the amount of available rental housing available.  Goldman noted that in other circumstances, where a owner/occupant rents out a room in their home to a traveler, there may not be such a reduction.  Concern was raised regarding Vacation Homes, second homes that remain vacant for a considerable period of the year.

Hardesty mentioned that the Chamber of Commerce should promote the communities family friendliness as a condition of their acceptance of City Funds.  She explained that it is important to state the positives to inquiries from people [or businesses] considering relocation as opposed to talking about school closures and exorbitant housing costs.


Goldman updated the Commission regarding the recent development on North Mountain noting that there is no affordable housing in those subdivisions as they were within the City Limits and thus not subject to annexation or zone change requirements for affordability.  He stated that no new development plans have been submitted for the Croman site. He explained that the Council has requested an “issues paper” regarding the former mill site and that planning staff will be providing that back to the Council in an effort to provide some guidance to the developers as to what the City is expecting.  Goldman stated that it was his understanding that the Clay Street 10-acre annexation is moving forward and he believed they would be submitting for a September hearing.  Due to annexation requirements the 100 unit proposal would have to have between 15-35 units as affordable.  Goldman understood that the developers were intending to provide the minimum number (15%) all targeted to 60%AMI and they would be rentals and regulated as affordable for 60 years.



Small stated that the review of priorities should be done at the subcommittee level and come back to the full commission. 


Street asked the other Commissioners about the expectations for time commitment to the Housing Commission.  Hardesty explained that for her, 2-5 hours per week was reasonable although her style creates a rush the week before the regular committee meeting.  Other Commissions stated that 2 hours per week seemed to be a reasonable expectation.   There was discussion that the subcommittees would likely be best to have midway between regular meetings.  Goldman suggested the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday be reserved for regular subcommittee meetings.  In this way the regular meeting, on the third Monday of the month, will be two weeks after the subcommittees.  Goldman stated he would provide the commissioners with potential dates for a study session in October.


Action items discussed by the Commission during this Study Session included:

-Creating a list of vulnerable Properties (HUD, Trailer parks)

-Inform the Downtown Plan Committee that Public Lots should be available for workforce housing

-Review information regarding Density Bonuses and Condominium Conversions for affordable housing provisions.

-Have a conference call with Fannie Mae regarding Employer Assisted Housing

-Have a conference call with HUD regarding section 108 loan program.

-Request that other public bodies establish a liaison to the Housing Commission [Parks, Schools, Planning Commission, Conservation Commission].

-Housing Commission members to be Liaisons to public bodies

Parks = Bill Street

Schools =Alice Hardesty

Planning Commission = (Don Mackin, Liz Peck, or new Commissioner; none present to volunteer)

Conservation Commission = Faye Weisler

-Draft letter for Housing Commission to send to ICCA regarding future use of 144 Second Street Homeless services center.

-Determine legality of restricting housing to families (with children) only.  Determine Fair Housing implications.  




ADJOURNMENT – The meeting was adjourned at 2:30 p.m.



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