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Housing Commission Minutes 12-20-07

Minutes
Thursday, December 20, 2007

 

ASHLAND HOUSING COMMISSION

MINUTES

December 20, 2007

 

CALL TO ORDER

Chair Bill Street called the meeting to order at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers located at 1175 E. Main St., Ashland, OR  97520.

 

The Commissioners welcomed new SOU representative Alexandra Amarotico

 

Commissioners Present:

 

SOU Liaison:  Alexandra Armarotico

Carol Voisin

 

 

Richard Billin

 

Council Liaison:  Alice Hardesty, absent

Regina Ayars

 

 

Bill Street

 

Staff Present:: 

Aaron Benjamin

 

Brandon Goldman, Housing Specialist

Graham Lewis

 

Carolyn Schwendener, Account Clerk

Bill Smith

 

 

Absent Members

 

 

Steve Hauck

 

 

 

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:  Voisin/Benjamin m/s to approve the minutes of the November 29th, 2007 meeting.  Voice Vote:  Approved. 

 

PUBLIC FORUM

No one came forth to speak.

 

REPORTS AND UPDATES

Subcommittee Report

Education No meeting. 

        Goldman picked up the Housing display from the Public Library and put it in the lobby of the Community Development Building at 51 Winburn Way. 

        Land Use – See discussion under Clay Creek RFQ 

        Finance – No meeting.

 

Liaison Reports

Council No report

PlanningBenjamin reported that at the last Planning Commission meeting the Havurah project was approved for 13 Units.  The approval came with several conditions one being that the developer make an arrangement regarding the flood water system. They did not discuss any affordable units or workforce units with the project.

 

CLAY CREEK RFQ - The Commissioners had the opportunity to review the applications prior to tonight’s meeting.

.

Habitat for Humanity - Denise James was present to represent Habitat for Humanity. She explained that Habitat for Humanity has been in the Rogue Valley for 20 years building houses for low income people that have a need for housing.  The applicants must partner with Habitat for Humanity and help build the house.  Habitat then sells the house to them using a no interest no profit mortgage which Habitat holds.   Currently they have built 32 houses in the Rogue Valley with a goal this year to build four houses.

 

The Commissioners questions with Ms. James’ responses:

  • What kind of assurances could Habitat for Humanity give to ensure that the two Ashland houses could be completed in a timely manner?

Habitat has purchased two lots in Central Point one of which is scheduled to begin construction in February of 2008.  Though they have committed themselves to the one project in Central Point if they make a commitment with Ashland to move forward with the Clay Creek project they feel they could do so and complete both.  They stagger their projects throughout the year making it easier for volunteer labor and fund raising.   

  • How do you get enough volunteers?

Habitat has a very large volunteer base. They have an AmeriCorp Vista person who recruits and coordinates. They receive help from Habitat International and are already scheduled out through March with outside groups coming in to help.  They hold monthly recruitments for volunteers and currently have more volunteers then they need. At one time this summer they did have a little trouble recruiting in Ashland at which time they hit the streets hard looking at civic groups and different organizations for volunteers.

  • How long did it take to complete the Six Unit Subdivision you constructed in 2006?   

It took a total of three years doing two units each year. This was partially due to funding.  

  • Do you sell the land with the house?

Yes, Habitat sells the land with the house and hold the mortgage. The houses they are currently building in Ashland are through a partnership with the Ashland Community Land Trust.  The Home owners will pay a renewable lease fee every month to the Trust.  Habitat is not entirely opposed to having a trust but what they really want is to give the opportunity for home ownership which would include the land.

  • How do you ensure that these houses will be affordable in the long term?

Habitat sells the house for what it cost to build. When the house is sold they appraise what the monthly payments will be to insure that they are not more then 30% of their monthly income. When they sell the house they take the difference between appraised value and the actual selling price and that amount goes into a sleeping second mortgage.  Habitat has the ability to subsidize it themselves if they cannot make the house affordable for the family, by putting a little bit more of the first mortgage into the second. Each year that the family remains in the house making payments Habitat for Humanity forgives a portion of that second mortgage. If the home owner stays throughout the life of the first mortgage, the second is then forgiven in its entirety. If they choose to sell early, they need to pay the difference of the second. A restriction with the Ashland project is that if the home owner chooses to sell it has to go to affordable housing at least 80% AMI. 

  • Are most of the units you have built over the last 20 years single family homes?

They always were until they began the Central Point project in 2003.  They found such a land crunch they realized they needed to produce as many units as possible. Now they won’t always necessarily be Single Family detached and they see townhomes as a likely model for the future.

  • How many hours does the applicant need to put in?

Five hundred hours of sweat equity.  Two hundred hours for each adult in the house and one hundred from other friends or family.  There needs to be at least one hundred hours in construction. There are other ways they can build sweat equity such as helping with fund raisers, events or work in the retail store.

  • Is there some kind of contract or commitment from the volunteers?

The volunteers do not have a contract. They try very hard to build relationships with the volunteers and they have found them to be a very dedicated group of people.

  • How do you absorb the unexpected increases in construction costs? 

Because the families are paying for the house they track all the building costs and the family pays those costs.  Many materials are donated and lots of contractors donate their time. A lot of the products are set up nationally as well as locally such as paint, appliances and insulation. Some of the work does have to be sub contracted out such as electrical and plumbing.

  • How committed are you to using sustainable materials?          

When they started the Ashland project about a year ago they worked in partnership with the City of Ashland with the Earth Advantage program.  They found that this is something they want to continue to do and have continued forward with it in the Medford project and have since found more resources for donations to go forward with that goal.  

 

RVCDC-Andrea Miranda, Director of Finance and Operations and John Wheeler, Director of Acquisitions and Construction spoke for RVCDC.

 

Ms. Miranda commended the City for using this parcel for affordable housing and for seeking out a well qualified non profit developer to partner with. RVCDC is a seventeen year organization.  To date they have built 42 units of affordable housing all to 80% and below AMI.  Historically they have done rehabilitation of existing housing until about two or three years ago when they started to use both the Community Land Trust model and Sweat Equity building component to do new construction.   Recent projects include the nine units on Siskiyou and Faith, Terrace Court on the corner or Siskiyou Blvd and Park Street, and soon to be is the Verde Village project.  For the Clay Creek property they are proposing five units using sustainable building practices as much as possible, using a Community Land Trust with a 99 year renewable land lease with resale restrictions built in. They propose doing two or three bedrooms because they have a lot of people on their list with larger families. They are striving to do little larger units with features for people with disabilities.  They have the readiness to proceed immediately and the goal is to be done by May of 2009. They are proposing at this time to do an urban self help which would be 250 hours total.  This would save time rather then using their Mutual Self Help Housing model which takes approximately nine months to teach  owner/builders to build their own home.  Ms. Miranda pointed out that they are requesting $50,000 in the reduction of the sale price. RVCDC has earmarks for shop funds self help homeownership opportunity funds of $15,000 per unit.  The remaining $50,000 would have to come from grants and donations which would take longer.  They would like to reduce the cost of the land because they will have to have some developer fee in order to pay for staff costs since they won’t have a grant for their Mutual Self Help housing to support actually building out the project.  They would also like to add as much room in their budget as possible for the ADA features as well as sustainable building features.  Ms. Miranda said that they have started a Dream Savers Individual Development Account (IDA) program. This IDA program provides matching savings to eligible folks for every dollar they save in the program.   RVCDC’s program provides $3.00  for every dollar saved, allowing the household that saves $2,000.00 to have $8,000.00 to contribute toward  the down payment.

 

Commissioners questions with Ms. Miranda and Mr. Wheeler’s responses.

  • What would be the sequence of their planned projects? It appears that the Verde village project and this one would have a similar time frame.  How are you going to juggle those two projects at the same time?

Mr. Wheeler stated that Verde Village would probably be broken into two phases with Phase 1 probably not starting construction until early 2009.  RVCDC is projecting to do eight to ten homes in Talent in 2008 and the second year of the self help will be the first phase of Verde Village. RVCDC is proposing the project to be a 250 hour owner urban self help model which means that most of the work will be done by sub contractors. The families will come in towards the end of the project and do trim work, fences, landscaping & painting.  Mr. Wheeler said it saves a substantial amount of money because those are high cost tasks if you had to hire sub contractors. It also allows them to use Self Help (HUD SHOP) which lowers the cost by $15,000 per unit if they have the self help contribution.  Since RVCDC would be using sub contractors for most of the work they feel the Clay Creek project will progress faster then if they did it as a full self help and they can dedicate a staff member to keep it on track. Mr. Wheeler said that their goal as an organization is to get to a point where in the next few years they are consistently building 15 to 20 homes.

  • What are your achievements over the last two or three years.

RVCDC started construction in October of 2005 for the nine units on Siskiyou and Faith.  That project was completed in December of 2006. They are currently ready to begin construction of six units at Terrace Court located at the corner of Siskiyou Blvd and Park St. The have just completed building eight homes in Medford. In the last two years the have fully completed 17 new homes and are in construction on another six. 

 

Mr. Wheeler explained how YouthBuild is another component that will help get the houses built.  There is a YouthBuild crew leader on staff full time partnering with the Job Council and Rogue Community College.  YouthBuild takes High School drop outs and trains them in construction for nine months to a year, and they help build the affordable housing as part of their on-site training.  Participants also get their GED’s or can take college courses during this time.  They tried to use some CDGB money for Ashland Youth Built but could not recruit enough Ashland Youth.

  • Will the youth people be coming from another project since not enough are in Ashland?

They work wherever the projects are.  The agreement is that Rogue Community College provides the teacher, Job Council provides the support staff, and RVCDC provides the construction training and the sites for them to learn on.  Currently they are working on Grape Street.

  • Inquired about the development fee

If they do an Urban Self Help there is no grant money that comes along with that to pay staff costs.  They are looking at a small fee attached to every purchase price of the home to pay the construction supervisor or project manager to off set the staff costs.  They receive no state funding at all so they are dependant on Foundation Grants, Bank Grants and local or federal government money.

  • Do you already have your budget worked out?

Mr. Wheeler said they don’t have a hard budget worked out yet but stated they want to build three bedroom townhouse style single family [attached] dwellings. Mr. Wheeler put a hard cap of $140,000 and that price would include all the sustainable features. 

  • Are you assured of getting the earmark monies?

They apply for the money by going through Community Frameworks in Washington State who then applies to HUD for those funds.  They ask RVCDC to apply noting  what kind of building they will be doing in the next two years.  Community Frameworks then gets the HUD award and sends a letter to RVCDC letting them know the certain number of earmarks available [award reservations for RVCDC] and informs them that RVCDC will need to submit a formal application when they are ready to proceed. The only way that RVCDC wouldn’t get the funding  is if they did not submit the full application.

  • Asked about the wait list

Ms. Miranda said they have what they refer to as an “interested person list”, but not necessarily a pre-qualified list.  They will send follow up letters to those people.  At this time they don’t have anything available for the larger families and found that some applicants have backed away from the projects because the houses weren’t big enough. 

 

Ashland Community Land Trust Tom Bradley represented ACLT.  Mr. Bradley wanted to convey two principals on behalf of the ACLT board. In reviewing the RFQ the board thought that the economic outcome requirements weren’t realistic given the expectation for any compensation for the land.  Given current materials and construction cost they couldn’t see how it would pencil without SDC concessions and without an outright grant of the land.  Mr. Bradley explained that ACLT is not a builder but more of a developer and more lean small organization.  Their resources are board members, brokers, developers and land use people.  They would only be able to do this project by teaming up with another builder.  They initially did discuss collaborating with Habitat for Humanity but it made more since for Habitat to apply on their own.  They believe it makes more since to go with a builder who can subsidize there costs.

 

Benjamin commented that the Housing Commission would like to see ACLT join with builders to help build projects that help reduce the cost of housing in the community.

 

Mr. Bradley stated that they have had a number of conversations with Larry Medinger and other builders.  The reality is that at the end of the day the builders are still paying market rate for materials and labor.  They can’t get around that, and ACLT delivers subsidized land and subsidized entitlements to that process.   The builders are not going to take unwanted risks. 

 

Street made the suggestion that John Fields be allowed to make comments regarding Habitat for Humanity since he arrived late and the Commission started the interviews early.  The Commissioners agreed.

 

John Fields– Mr. Fields has worked with Habitat for 12 years.  Habitat is a volunteer organization with a paid Director and a part time Field Manager.  His original goal has been to get up to 10 houses a year.  Mr. Fields stated that there are issues with the Clay Creek site regarding wetlands and how to best address the parks needs as well as access to that park. It’s not the ideal affordable site having constraints that make it difficult.  As a private developer Mr. Fields said he would hate to see someone have to spend $20,000 a lot just to make it developable.

 

Goldman reviewed the next steps regarding the RFQ.  The intention of initiating the RFQ was to identify a developer. The Housing Commission would then make a recommendation to the City Council, probably at the February 19 meeting.  The Council would select a developer to be a development partner with the City. At that point the City would be in a position of working with that developer to draft a developer agreement and start to undertake the land use issues and details of the project.  Goldman said the City had been entertaining the idea of the project not being a 100 percent affordable development but a mixed income development.  Market rate units could help offset some of the development costs.

 

The Commissioners deliberated and discussed the three proposals.

 

 A selection committee, including Ayars , Hauck, Smith and Goldman, was previously formed to discuss these proposals and apply the selection criteria to rank each respondent.

 

Goldman noted that each of the respondents (Habitat, ACLT, and RVCDC) were each ranked first by at least one member of the selection committee. They felt fortunate to get responses from three capable organizations which made the task of ranking them more difficult.  After the strength and weaknesses of each application were discussed and the point totals were aggregated, the selection committee ranked RVCDC number one and Habitat for Humanity and ACLT tied for number two. The Selection Committee recommendation being forwarded to the Housing Commission and the City Council was to select RVCDC as the developer.

 

Ayars shared some strengths of RVCDC

  • The application itself was detailed with lots of pictures of previous projects and extensive information on staff with references
  • They have been building houses for 17 years for a total of 42 units which was the most number by the three applicants. 
  • Subsidy was the smallest amount requested. 
  • Time line was most aggressive, hopefully realistic. 

 

In Hauck’s absence Goldman summarized his comments from notes he had taken.

  • Hauck identified the successful self help history of RVCDC of past projects.
  • Noted the success Habitat for Humanity had for getting funding and saw the funding stream as something beneficial
  • Indicated experience with sustainability that Habitat for Humanity had and noted that RVCDC didn’t have any proven experience with sustainability. 

 

Smith expressed his thoughts on the applicants

  • Saw strengths in  ACLT as the preferred developer noting the mix of incomes proposed and realistic cost assessment.

 

Goldman shared his  individual assessment as a member of the selection committee

  • Goldman had ranked Habitat for Humanity most favorably in terms of their experience in getting funding and proven model in providing affordable housing
  • Each of the applicants had strengths that would show they could have the capability to do the project. 

 

Billin said that after reviewing the proposal he felt a little more comfortable with RVCDC’s application.  He liked their game plan and liked the time frame to make it happen.  Billin did like Habitat’s track record and the significant amount of resources they can drop on the project.  Also liked the diversity and flexibility of ACLT.  Overall he would recommend RVCDC.

 

Benjamin was concerned about the $50,000 subsidy with RVCDC’s request.  He was also concerned about the volunteers it would take to get the job done with Habitat for Humanity.  He noted that in ACLTs presentation they essentially backed out and deferred to the other respondents, Habitat and RVCDC.

 

Voisin was most comfortable with Habitat for Humanity.  She felt their presentation was good.  The depth of volunteers as well as the infrastructure gives her great confidence. She was concerned that RVCDC may have too much on their plate. 

 

Lewis also had confidence in  Habitat for Humanity.  He really liked the YouthBuild component with RVCDC.  Mr. Lewis said he is comfortable with either applicant.

 

Street agreed that both candidates were strong commenting that RVCDC had a more complete and thorough application. 

 

Billin/Ayars m/s that RVCDC be the choice for the developer. Roll Call Vote:  Commissioners Smith, Ayars, Billin, Street, Benjamin, Lewis YES.  Commissioner Voisin NO.  Motion passed 6-1.

 

Goldman agreed that this is a difficult site to develop.  The Land use process alone is difficult though the City will be able to help. The entire parcel of land was originally purchased for one million dollars paying $8.67 a square foot.  From the housing perspective they purchased a portion of the property for development from the Parks Department for $8.67 a square foot. 

 

Benjamin asked Goldman if he recalled the size and the price of the Lower Pines project.   Goldman did not remember that particular project amount but stated that RVCDC’s R-3 zoned property was $371,000 for half an acre. 

 

ANNUAL ELECTION OF COMMISSION CHAIR, VICE CHAIR AND SECRETARY Voisin/Billin m/s to nominate Bill Smith for the Chair.   Unanimously approved. Benjamin/Billin m/s to nominate  Carol Voisin to be Vice Chair.  Unanimously approved.  It was decided not to elect a secretary at this time.

 

Voisin thanked Bill Street for being the Chair.  The Commissioners expressed their disappointment with him leaving the Commission and will miss him as a member. 

 

PRESENTATION TO COUNCIL - The presentation will be on February 5 at 7:00 pm. The Commissioners identified the topics on which they will speak. 

  • Housing Trust Fund-Billin
  • Condo Conversion ordinance-Smith
  • New Housing Units-Ayars
  • Housing Notebook- Lewis
  • New SOU student representative Alexandra will briefly explain to the Council why she joined.
  • New Chair Bill Smith will address the Housing Commissions  2008 goals.   

 

UPCOMING EVENTS AND MEETINGS

                Housing Commission Regular Meeting – January 24, 2008 @ 5:00-7:00p.m.

                Education subcommittee – January 9, 2008 @ 5:15-6:15

                Finance subcommittee – January 8, 2008 @ 5:30-6:30

                Land Use subcommittee – January 10, 2008 @ 11:00 – 12:00

 

Adjournment at 7:15 p.m.

 

 

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