Agendas and Minutes

Housing Commission (View All)

Housing Commission Regular Meeting

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 2013
Chair Regina Ayars called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. at Council Chambers located at 1175 East Main St. Ashland, OR  97520.
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Regina Ayars Pam Marsh
Michael Gutman  
Barb Barasa SOU Liaison
Evan Lasley Andrew Ensslin, absent
  Staff Present:
Commissioners Absent: Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
Ben Scott Carolyn Schwendener
Ayars announced that Ben Scott has accepted a new job and has resigned from the Commission because he will be doing a lot of traveling.  There is a new candidate who has submitted an application and should be appointed shortly.
Ayars read a document addressed to the Commission Chairs and staff from Mayor Stromberg.  The reason for the letter was to inform the Commissioners about the new guidelines for the Council Liaisons and Commission Chairs for the upcoming year.  The purpose is to be more flexible with the Council Liaison attendance and to turn over the responsibility opportunity of reporting to the Council to the Commission Chairs.  The issues that the Mayor has been concerned about are; two many assignments for Councilors, too many meetings to attend, Councilors not attending the meetings to which they are committed, and Councilors not making reports to the Council about their assignments.  The Mayor’s solution is to remove the expectation that Councilors will attend all meetings of their Commissions. Councilors’ will be available to their Commissions to consult and attend when requested and when feasible. 
Pam Marsh introduced herself as a new member to the City Council and expressed how happy she is to be a Liaison with this group. 
The Commissioners asked Marsh how she wanted to participate in the Housing Commission and if she planned on attending the meetings. Marsh conveyed that her intent is come to the meetings for at least a few minutes to check in with the Commission.  Marsh is the manager of the Ashland Community Food Bank and announced they are starting an evening shopping event which is scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of the month at 5:00 p.m. coinciding with the Housing Commission meeting.  She is working on the coordination of this event and organizing volunteers.  Marsh will always be available by phone but is also working on clearing her schedule in order to be able to attend the Commission meetings.  Reid will move the Liaison reports up in the Agenda in order to allow Marsh to be able to report in before leaving the meeting.
Gutman/Lasley m/s to approve the minutes of the February 27, 2013 regular Housing Commission meeting. Voice Vote:  All AYES; minutes were approved as presented. 
No one spoke
One of the Housing Commission goals for 2013 is to incorporate students into the Fair Housing Ordinance. Lasley is working on preparing a Student Fair Housing Survey.  Currently he has three questions on the survey;
  • Do you believe you were denied housing because you were a student? Have you ever experienced discrimination in your housing opportunities because you were a student?
  • Do you believe you have been asked to pay a higher deposit fee because you were a student?
  • Would you support an initiative to make students a protective class to prevent discrimination against students living in Ashland?
Lasley explained that last year when the Commission reviewed the Fair Housing Ordinance the Commissioners discussed the possibility of including students as a protected class.  The Commissioners first wanted more input from the students.  The goal is to receive back a couple hundred responses. This survey will be given to ASSOC for approval and then distributed mainly to those who live off campus. The survey will be sent out to the student’s email accounts.  It was suggested to print some copies and hand them out during registration. It was also suggested to request the age of the person taking the survey and perhaps changing the word “student” to “student status.”   Lasley will include a comment space. Reid will inquire about putting the survey in the May issue of the City Source which goes out in the utility bills.
Lasley/Ayars m/s to approve the three Fair Housing Survey questions that Lasley presented adding two more; Age and Do you live in Ashland. Voice Vote:  All AYES, motion passed unanimously.
Lasley announced that his term will be ending on April 30, 2013.  He will not be reapplying because he will be traveling.  If Lasley has left before the survey results are compiled the SOU Liaison Andrew Ensslin will report the results back to the Commission.   
Reid – After the last Housing Commission meeting with the CDBG recommendations the City received a letter from HUD that said to expect a five percent reduction in the allocation of funds.  Reid did say that she has not yet received confirmation on the actual amount they will receive.  The Council Communication and the recommendation from staff had to reflect that reduced amount.  The Housing Commission recommendation was the same due to the fact they didn’t have the HUD information at the time of review but the staff recommendation has been altered.  Staff requested that the Ashland Food Bank receive the total allocation they asked for and the remaining balance go to the Ashland program. 
The City Council will review the recommendations at their Tuesday April 2nd meeting.
Marsh – Marsh explained that the Homeless Steering Committee was an Ad Hoc Committee appointed for one year and then extended for a second year.  As the Committee is coming to a close they still have issues they would like to address though it doesn’t make sense to continue an Ad Hoc Committee for years.  Marsh will be suggesting to the Council to look at a change in both the Housing Commission and the Steering Committee that would create a Housing & Human Services Commission.  The idea being that there is a range of issues around housing but the primary emphasis would be on housing and homelessness.  The Human Services part gives us an opportunity to address issues surrounding poverty stated Marsh. It appears that most of the members on the Homeless Steering Committee are open to joining this merger and are supportive for further discussion. 
The proposal is that the committees spend the next six to twelve months discussing this idea. The first step is that the proposal goes before the City Council Study Session on Monday at 5:30 at 51 Winburn Way.  The main concern of the Housing Commission is that they may lose their focus of Housing because the issues around the human services are more acute and have to be dealt with immediately.  There was a fear those would soon take priority over housing issues. 
Ayars pointed out that another Housing Commission goal for 2013 was the preservation of Affordable Housing in Ashland.  The list of facilities that came up for renewal was quite small.  Ayars contacted those properties and found out that all of them with the exception of Sun Village (twelve units on North Main) were planning on maintaining affordability on a short term basis.  Ayars and Reid met with the property owner of Sun Village and discovered she has owned the property for thirty years and maintained it under section 8.  She is burned out and interested in selling it.  Her asking price is One million dollars. At one point the Housing Authority of Jackson County was interested in purchasing it but did not have the available finances. The units will be expiring in April and all the tenants have been given their vouchers though none have given their notice.  She did not raise the rent but will do so to market rate if and when the current renters move out. 
Ayars saw an ad in the Daily Tidings from Donna Lane at SOU.  She has a business graduate program and was soliciting for survey projects.   Ayars sent Donna an email inquiring if a rental registry was something her students might be interested in doing.  As it turns out they have lots of people interested in using the students and consequently have developed an interview process. Interviews will take place next Wednesday from 6:00 pm until 9:00 p.m. Ayars scheduled an appointment for 7:40 p.m.  She asked the Commissioners for some help with determining what it is the students would do for the rental registry. 
Ayars looked at some of the rental registry programs in other Cities as well as spoke with Louise Dix who worked on the City of Medford Rental Registry Program. Dix is also on the Homeless Task Force.  Dix suggested looking at the City of Gresham’s program which has a much better program than Medford.  After reviewing the websites for both Cities Ayars acknowledged that this program requires a great deal of code compliance and the City of Ashland does not have a full time code compliance officer. Councilor Marsh acknowledged that there is talk about requesting a code compliance officer as an add package on the budget.
The City of Medford’s program is called a Residential Rental Registration program positioned as health and safety for the tenants.  One of the reasons for the program was to develop and maintain a City Wide data base identifying housing inventories throughout the city.  The program was also designed to assist the City with emergency services and public safety agencies by notifying property owners about any potential hazardous situations and prevent them from happening in the future. In order to be a healthy, safe and livable somebody needs to inspect those properties, stated Ayars. 
Reid said that Medford intended to have inspections. Medford’s Housing Commission had a joint committee with police, fire, and planning that was called the Problem Properties Committee.  The Committee met monthly to discuss properties in town that had issues.  One of the reasons for establishing the rental registry was in order to get contact information of absentee landlords. Reid said she was not sure if the Committee is meeting any longer. It is a requirement that all landlords register though it is voluntary and difficult to enforce. 
The City of Gresham has a more extensive program than Medford with two code compliance officers and an administrator.  Their program was established in 2007. The properties with five or less units are inspected once every three years and those with five units or more are inspected annually. 
Ayars emphasized that she would still like to see the City of Ashland move forward on trying to establish a rental Registry though realizing it is quite an undertaking.  She again proposed the question; How could we involve this group of students to help with the project or perhaps it is not appropriate for us to use them at this time? The Commission discussed the idea of using business license registry as an avenue. It was also mentioned that the Fire Department does fire safety inspections and maybe could combine efforts for inspection.  Marsh reminded the Commission to define a clear objective including what it is you want to achieve.
At the conclusion of the discussion the Commissioners agreed they were not quite ready to have the students help this year with a survey for the Rental Registry.  Ayers will cancel her appointment. 
Reid gave a brief update on the Vacation Rental process. The Planning Commission made a recommendation to the Council with changes they thought should take place.  After the Council discussed it they requested some clarity regarding the recommendation that the Housing Commission submitted. The Council would like more information regarding the loss of long term rentals though Reid conveyed this is difficult information to track. The Housing Commission was concerned that long term rentals would convert to Vacation Rentals because it’s more lucrative which would then create a loss of rental properties.   Housing Commission has the goal to maintain affordable housing for the citizens of Ashland.
The Council moved to approve the initiation of amendments to the Ashland Municipal Code related to short-term rentals that incorporate the recommendations forwarded to the Council by the Planning commission, and further direct staff to prepare amendments to Chapters 4, 6 and 15 of the AMC, as necessary, to ensure that taxation and licensing issues are appropriately address.  Made an additional motion to eliminate the Planning Commission recommendations to include a Downtown District element, retain the current standard for distance from an arterial requirement, and have the ordinance not include a cap on specific kinds of facilities. 
The planning staff will draft the ordinance and bring it back before the Planning Commission and probably again to the Housing Commission. 
Quorum check – Marsh will be absent, everyone else will be there. 
Lasley will give an update on the student survey results
Barasa will be putting together a Landlord tenant rights brochure
Goldman will discuss the Normal Avenue Plan
Next Housing Commission Regular Meeting
4:00-5:45 PM; April 24, 2013
ADJOURNMENT - The meeting was adjourned at 5:40.m.
Respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener

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