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Housing and Human Services Commission (View All)

Housing and Human Services Commission Regular Meeting

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Ashland Housing and Human Services Commission
Minutes April 28, 2016
In the absence of both the Chair and the Vice Chair Commissioner Rhode called the meeting to order at 4:30 pm in the Siskiyou Room at the Community Development and Engineering Offices located at 51 Winburn Way, Ashland OR 97520.
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Tom Gunderson Pam Marsh
Rich Rhode  
Heidi Parker SOU Liaison
Sue Crader Leo McCaffrey
Sharon Harris  
Tom Buechele Staff Present:
Commissioners Absent: Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
Coriann Matthews Carolyn Schwendener, Staff secretary
Gina DuQuenne  
Joshua Boettiger  

Buechele/Crader m/s to approve the minutes of the March 24, 2016 Housing and Human Services Commission meeting.  Voice Vote: All ayes, minutes were approved as presented.
Rhode welcomed everyone in the audience but no one came forth to speak.
The first speaker was Emily Eckart – Ms. Eckart is part of the Southern Oregon Honors College, the Volleyball Team and the Ashland JiuJitsu Academy in Ashland. Ms. Eckart presented her essay entitled “Sleep Deprivation within the Homeless Community.”  Ms. Eckart explained that sleep deprivation can cause many issues including mental illness, alcohol dependency, anxiety and depression.  She strongly believes the answer to the problem is housing first. A shelter is needed in order to get the proper sleep and Ms. Eckart is advocating for a permanent shelter for those who do not have a home. 
Rielly Nycum presented her essay on “The Psychology of Homelessness” – Ms. Nycum is also a member of the Southern Oregon University Honors College.  There is a misconception in society that the reason people might be homeless is because they have mental illness and drug addiction but Ms. Nycum pointed out that it might be the other way around.  The homeless often use drugs to deal with their situations, perhaps they don’t have a stable living environment.  Ms. Nycum acknowledged that a housing program can make a difference in their lives and give them the stabilitly.providing a way to get out of their problem situation and possibly prevent drug use. 
Jassmine Reill presented her essay on “Housing First.” Ms. Reill too is a member of Southern Oregon University Honors College.  She gave an overview and in depth look at the Housing First program in comparison with other housing programs and discussed why Housing First tends to be more successful.  The purpose of the Housing First Program is to provide permanent stable housing to those who have experienced homelessness as well as offer voluntary support services such as drug treatment.  The approach is what sets it apart from other programs stated Ms. Reill.  The participants remain long enough to achieve recovery with the treatment specialists meeting with them regularly. Typically after the program the participants are able to find employment and can regain independence. 
The Commissioners encouraged the students to find other venues to speak at in order to increase the awareness in the community surrounding the issues of homeless people. It would be helpful to present some scientific data to the City Council.  It was also suggested that the students participate in the upcoming affordable housing forum.
Andrew Morrison with gave a presentation to the Commissioners.  Mr. Morrison teaches about tiny houses all over the world, just returning from Brazil.  He lives in a 207 square foot tiny house on wheels. By definition a tiny house is a dwelling unit providing completed independent living facilities for one of more persons with provisions for living, sleeping, cooking, eating and sanitation. 
Some of Mr. Morrison’s points;
Who lives in tiny houses – College students, first time home buyers, couples, families, retirees, caretakers, disabled homeowners, transitional housing.
How are they built – Like a house but on a trailer. The foundation is the trailer.  These are nice well-built quality structures, a beautiful addition to any neighborhood.
How they meet the housing needs in a Community – skyrocketing rents, lack of affordable housing, loss of pride of ownership impacting communities, affordability.  The average down payment for a house in the United States is $50,000, which is the amount for an entry level tiny house already built.  Doing the construction yourself can lower that amount of as little as $33,000. 
Some of the barriers that Mr. Morrison called attention to are both with the International Residential code and zoning regulations.  Examples; minimum room areas, foundations, sleeping lofts are illegal with no egress, energy code cannot always be met, taxation levels, system development fees, lack of permanence, not the correct zoning, zoning densities, not in my back yard.
Mr. Morrision went on to say we all need to work together to find solutions because these houses benefit both communities and owners.  We need to get innovative with options.  
Andrew Duncan of Southern Oregon Tiny Homes provided a tiny house for the viewing of the commissioners as well as the community and parked it out in front of the Community Development building. 
Karen Logan invited the Commissioners to a teaching workshop with Alex Daniels on June 4th and 5th for those who are interested in building a tiny home.
Reid and Commissioner Rhode presented information surrounding potential funding sources to the Council at their last Study Session.  The Council gave direction regarding what funding sources would be worth further investigating and which ones should be taken off the table.  Taken off the table was the transient occupancy tax and the food and beverage tax but the construction excise tax and marijuana tax were possibilities.  The commissioners presented the question, “What is the minimum amount needed each year in order to entice affordable housing?” 
Councilor Marsh commented that the Council encouraged the Commission to concentrate on new sources of funding or increase existing sources of funding.  The Council has a couple of goal setting sessions coming up one of which will focus on new initiatives and trying to match them up with funding streams.  The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) will be on this list of funding.  Marsh reminded the Councilors it was the job of the Commission to identify the needs of the community but it is the Council’s job to identify the sources of funding. 
Rhode remarked that he recently contacted the Housing Authority of Jackson County in order to discuss what would attract them to be more involved in developing affordable housing in Ashland.  One of those items mentioned was the need for a HTF with a large amount of money to work with.  The Commissioners agreed $675,000 would be attractive to developers.  The Commissioner’s stressed that educating the public about the need of affordable housing is an important piece.
The Commissioners discussed the way in which the CDBG recommendations were addressed at the Council level. The Commissioners spent a great deal of time looking at each applicant and the background information provided but the Council rejected their recommendation.  It was suggested that more feedback be given from the Council level during the process so that the Commission understands the goals of the Council.  That would prevent discouragement of any recommendations being rejected.  The commissioner’s proposed the question “Could our time better be spent elsewhere?” 
Marsh acknowledged that this group of Commissioners did a great job and that the Council has a commitment to spend a small limited amount of money and had to spend it responsibly.  She offered if in the future the Commission would like more input from her she is willing to give her guidance.  Marsh explained they can always ask her opinion but she did not feel at the time it was her place to intervene. Marsh stated, “If I can better provide guidance please tell me.” 
Put this topic on next month’s agenda.  Reid called attention to the monthly brown bag meeting with the mayor.  This might be an opportunity for the Commissioners to express their concerns.
Reid will submit to HUD for their approval (or disapproval) the Council recommendations and how the awards will meet the goals established in the Consolidated Plan. 
Gunderson/Crader m/s to approve the Consolidated Plan. 
A short discussion followed.  It was noted that though the Resource Center did not receive funding they were mentioned throughout the report.  They were glad they were represented in it. 
Voice Vote:  All ayes, motion passed unanimously
SOU liaison Megan Mercier was absent so Leo McCaffrey represented the SOU students.  McCaffrey is senator of Campus Life and Housing and serves on the Resident Tenant Hall Association board.  He expressed their appreciation that the Commission and Council has given to the issue of Student Housing in Ashland. A proactive measure they have taken is to create a rental deposit reserve fund administered by the student government for the purpose of easing the mind of landlords who are concerned about getting safety deposit funds after the renters have moved out. The students have also created an Ad Hoc meeting to have students work on a Renter’s Bill of Rights.  Eventually they would like to include City officials and landlords on their Committee. 
Election of officers
Council/Commission dialog discussion
Student rental programs
Next Housing Commission Meeting – 4:30-6:30 PM; May 26, 2016 4:30-6:30 in the Siskiyou Room at the Community Development & Engineering Department located at 51 Winburn Way. –
The meeting was adjourned at 6:36 p.m. respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener

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