Agendas and Minutes

Housing Commission (View All)

Housing Commission Regular Meeting

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October 24, 2012
Chair Regina Ayars called the meeting to order at 4:10 p.m. at the Council Chambers located at 1175 East Main St. Ashland, OR  97520.
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Regina Ayars Carol Voisin
Ben Scott  
Barb Barasa Staff Present:
Evan Lasley Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
  Carolyn Schwendener, absent
Commissioners Absent:  
Michael Gutman  
Brett Ainsworth  
Lasley/Scott m/s to approve the minutes of the September 26, 2012 regular Housing Commission meeting. Voice Vote:  All Ayes; minutes were approved as presented. 
No one spoke
Bill Molnar, Community Development Director was present to brief the Commission on an issue that has come before the City Council.  Molnar asked the question “What impact does the way the City treats vacation rentals in the community have on our housing inventory?”  Council has directed staff to look at possible changes to the zoning.  Because there is an impact on housing the Council would like the Housing Commission to participate and weigh in on this discussion.  The purpose of this presentation is to give the Housing Commission some background.
Short term accommodations traditionally are the motels, hotels, and bed and breakfasts where a guest can stay less than 30 days.  Ashland has prohibited the renting out of homes in single family residential neighborhoods on a short term basis.  It is prohibited by the land use ordinance.  As part of the Community Development Department we also address Code Compliance as it relates to zoning violations, stated Molnar.  We have seen an increase in activity not only from complaints but from looking at internet sites.  The department took an aggressive compliance effort in the summer and sent out forty to fifty code compliance letters to those properties they were aware of that did not have a land use permit and were not paying transient occupancy tax. This created some frustration from those individuals bringing about the question; should we create some flexibility with the zoning code? There is also the issue of fairness for those who follow the guidelines and rules.
Molnar stated the key issues for future discussion are: What is the impact on available housing in the community due to this circumstance?  Does this increase the cost of housing? Ultimately these homes are taken out of the rental market.
The long term history in Ashland as a community has been the concern about growing outward. The desire has been to maintain a compact community that promotes alternative modes of transportation. The City has taken a position in the region where they adopted the City Urban Growth boundary (UGB) thirty years ago (1981) being one of the few cities if not the only city in the state who has never increased the UGB.   The City chose not to identify future areas to expand the UGB but offered to develop more innovative land use strategies to accommodate future business, employment and housing over the next twenty years using the current land base.
Molnar explained that the next step will be, after the first of the year the staff will know what direction the Planning Commission would like them to take.  Ultimately before they write any specific ordinance language staff will bring suggestions from both the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission back to the Council.
The Commissioners asked for a profile of the rental houses.  They were curious if people are renting high end housing or inexpensive housing. Molnar conveyed that the preliminary internet searches for code compliance showed rentals for smaller inexpensive homes within walking distance to the downtown.  The proximity to downtown seemed to out weight the amenities that might be offered.
Abi Maghamfar owner of Abigail’s Bed & Breakfast (B&B) located on North Main Street spoke.  Maghamfar explained that he understands the situation that has arisen regarding the problem with illegal units being rented.   Maghamfar stated he is just looking for a fairness level playing field.  As long as the houses operating as a vacation rental are permitted properly and provide adequate insurance and safety features just the way Bed & Breakfast and hotels offer he has no concern. Competition is a good thing as long as it’s an even and fair playing field.  Though forty to fifty letters went out to properties that the Planning Department was aware of, Maghamfar stated there is evidence that as many as one hundred and fifty houses are actively being rented for vacation rentals. With that number of units being out of the short term housing market it is his opinion it does make a difference to the City’s housing inventory.  These are homes that would otherwise be available to those wishing to live in Ashland. People coming into town do have a place to stay as the Bed & Breakfasts in town are not 100% full. 
Ellen Campbell, Campbell addressed the question of what the typical profile of the rental houses is.  She stated that they are not just second homes for people it’s an entire range of scenarios.  In the last twelve years the industry has seen an eighteen percent decrease in the number of B&B’s that are operating in Ashland.  Though it would make sense that the current B&B’s would absorb that increase in occupancy the opposite has happened.  In the last ten years the occupancy has either been stable or declined due to the increase of illegal units in town.  Campbell commented that it might be tempting for the City to allow these additional vacation rentals in order to receive the Transient Occupancy Tax.  She believes that the City could in fact receive an increase in tax by not allowing those illegal rentals which would increase the occupancy of the legal units.   
Reid pointed out that City Recorder, Barbara Christianson and City Attorney Dave Lowman took the information provided to them by the Commissions and created three options for the Commissioners to vote between. 
After the discussion the Commissioners made the following recommendation.
Lasley/Scott m/s to recommend Section 2.10.025 of Option Two with Section 2.10.040 of Option Three and Section 2.10.050 of Option Three with the definition of excused absence the same as defined adding the following (“An excused absence is defined as an urgent personal or job related matter or a matter where the member has no control over their ability to attend a meeting.”)
Ayars made an amendment to the motion adding the following sentence after the definition of excused absence to say “also a Commissioner is allowed a single annual excused absence for a vacation”
The Commissioners’ voted on the amendment.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes, amendment passed unanimously
The Commissioners voted on the original motion.  Voice Vote:  All Ayes.  Motion passed unanimously to include the amendment
Lasley announced the Commission will soon have a new SOU Liaison.  He spoke with the President of ASSOU and there is a freshman who is interested in the position.  Lasley sent the person an email for confirmation and the Commission would like to have them on board by the January meeting.
The Commission is down one member and each Commissioner agreed to make an effort to try and recruit someone as soon as possible.
Council – Voisin acknowledged that Reid did an excellent job presenting the Fair Housing Ordinance to the City Council.
Staff – Reid reported the Fair Housing Ordinance passed first reading at Council and will be going to second reading on the sixth of November along with the first reading of the Housing Needs Analysis.  The Fair Housing Council of Oregon has hired a three quarter time person, Louise Dix, to serve the Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Coos and Klamath regions.  She will be stationed at ACCESS and is expected to be down next month. Ms Dix recently left the city of Gresham though prior to that she was the CDBG administrator for the City of Medford. She was on the Medford Housing Commission, Chair of the Homeless task force as well as the Chair of the Southern Oregon Housing Resource Center.
Reid gave an update from the Homeless Steering Committee. A joint meeting was held with members of the faith based community.  Good things came out of the meeting; Trinity Episcopal announced they will add a weekly shelter night on Wednesdays starting Thanksgiving week.  The Universal Unitarian Church is considering also hosting a weekly shelter night; they are continuing to take up a special collection to provide materials like sleeping bags.  A shelter training is being organized. 
General Announcements – The Council meeting may change from November 6th to the 7th due to the general election. Councilman Chapman has resigned and there is a process for appointing a new Council person.  The City has sixty days to appoint a new person.
Voisin will not attend the goal setting retreat. She did encourage the Commissioners to send their suggested goals to the Council no later than January.  Suggested topics were:
  • Co-housing ordinances and zoning issues.  More and more seniors are considering co-housing experiences.
  • Review the recommendations in the Housing Needs Analysis.
  • Review the 2012 goals to see what has been accomplished and what may need to carry over to 2013.
  • A more in depth look at the Housing Trust Fund.  Still need a revenue source.
  • Dot Exercise/Goal prioritization
  • Discussion of Fair housing for students
Normal Avenue Neighborhood Design Workshop – October 25th, Ashland Middle School 7:00 – 9:00 P.M.
Public Hearing – First Reading Housing Needs Analysis – November 6th, City Council Chambers 7:00 – 10:00 P.M.
Discussion of policy changes for commissions and committees – December 3rd City Council Study Session, Community Development Building 5:30-7:00 P.M.
Next Meeting-Housing Commission Retreat
9:00-12:00 PM; November 17th (Lunch included from 12:00-1:00)
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener

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