Agendas and Minutes

Housing and Human Services Commission (View All)

Housing and Human Services Commission Special Meeting

Minutes
Thursday, November 15, 2018

 
Ashland Housing and Human Services Commission
November 15, 2018
CALL TO ORDER
Commissioner Chair Rohde called the meeting to order at 4:30 pm in the Andromeda Room of Ashland Hills Hotel, 2525 Ashland Street, Ashland OR 97520.
 
Commissioners Present: Council Liaison
Gina DuQuenne Jackie Bachman 
Rich Rohde  
Erin Crowley SOU Liaison
Tom Gunderson None
Sue Crader  
Heidi Parker Staff Present:
Linda Reppond Linda Reid, Housing Specialist
Erica Franks Brandon Goldman, Senior Planner
  Carolyn Schwendener, Admin

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
Tonight’s meeting was held at Ashland Hills Hotel in order to provide enough space for those attending in regards to the discussion about Rent Burden.  Rohde welcomed everyone to the meeting and the Commissioners and staff introduced themselves to the audience members. 
 
Rohde announced that staff member Carolyn Schwendener will be retiring at the end of the year.  He expressed the Commission’s appreciation for all her efforts in providing detailed minutes over the last several years.
 
OPEN DISCUSSION ABOUT RENT BURDEN
Before the discussion began Senior Planner, Brandon Goldman gave a Power Point presentation on Rent Burden.  Some of the highlights from Goldman’s presentation include:
  • 4 in 10 households are spending over 30% of their incomes on housing
  • 54% of households in Ashland are homeowners and 46% are renters
  • One- and two-person households represent a growing segment of the housing market     
  • Since 1990 home prices are up 368% and income has increased 200% 
Discussion followed.  Thirty-two people were in the audience.
 
Audience member:  You have collected quite a bit of data and in the past there was an effort to create a housing inventory in which some of those statistics would reflect the demand for one and two family housing types.  There was also an effort made with the business license registry as a way for data to be collected on owners of rentals.  How is this data collected that you are using today? 
 
Reid responded that most data the City uses comes from Census Data.  There are two forms of census data, Decennial Census and the American Community Survey data.  There are also more local sources for data the City also uses such as State of Oregon data.  The City has a software program which gives permitting data on housing types and number of units.  Property owners with two or more rental units apply for a business license they are required fill out a rental registry information.  
 
Audience member:  What is your confidence level with the compliance of landlords in town regarding applying for business licenses and rental registry?
 
Reid answered that currently the City has no mechanism for compliance to insure landlords are filling out the business license and rental registry when it’s required.
 
Audience member:  Is the City open to the possibility of community based ownership models such as land trusts as a way of flipping the ownership model giving more opportunities for people? 
 
Goldman explained the City of Ashland worked with the Housing Commission and a non-profit group called the Ashland Community Land Trust (ACLT) to establish a land trust in 2004 which they purchased property using Community Development Block Grant funds and built units on it.   A land trust allows the property owner to purchase only the house and not the land avoiding land inflation each year, explained Goldman.  The house can be sold to the next person but the land trust keeps the land.  Over the course of fourteen years ACLT was successfully developing sixteen housing units for ownership.  The units remain affordable for a period of ninety-nine years.  The price of the land has increased to the point where purchasing it would be difficult unless funding sources are available.  Rhode added that Rogue Valley Community Development, currently known as Groundworks, has about thirty units similarly to land trusts.  All of them are operated by Neighborworks Umpqua.  Reid commented because there is a renewed interest in land trusts the City has an on-going dialogue with Neighborworks Umpqua.   Reid explained that Neighborworks Umpqua owns the land and leases it back to the home owners. 
 
Audience member:  Please review the one person two-person household chart.
Reid reviewed the chart that Goldman presented in his power point presentation explaining the one and two-person household represent the largest growing segment of the housing market.
 
Audience member: I represent the population that is interested in finding a way to have housing for more than one family, but multi-generational housing. The idea is that people of different ages can live in the same development harmoniously and be able to afford it.  Examples are college students, grandparents, those entering the job market, those beyond retirement etc.
 
Audience member: Some older adults are living in three and four bedroom homes experiencing vulnerability and isolation as well as economic stresses but want to stay in their homes.  What kind of assessments are we able to do to help people in those situations to be able to stay in their homes and perhaps rent out their bedrooms to help with finances?
Reid responded that Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCG) has looked at model programs in other cities surrounding this idea.  Reid acknowledge this is a great idea for a program.  Rohde mentioned the City did fund a non-profit to work with the Ashland Fire Department to assist eligible seniors and persons with disabilities to make safety and or accessibility modifications to their residences.
 
Audience member:  I work with an advocacy group, Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT).  We are constantly hearing from low income and elderly renters that they feel isolated and not engaged.  What are you considering doing to start that engagement process with people who don’t have access? 

The staff has not put forth any program at this time, stated Goldman.  It does sound like Rogue Valley Council of Governments might be working on a regional program to create a data base of people who have rooms to rent.
 
Audience member:  The University is very interested in matching students who are looking for housing with older adults.  The University has a website for students who are looking for housing and you can go on that site and find people who might be appropriately matched with older adults.  Not sure how to facilitate that as a program but working collaboratively with other institutions would be a good idea.  This would help alleviate some of the financial burdens on seniors and help students with affordability as well.
 
Audience member:  I was born and raised in Berkley California and am curious about the topic of rent control.  Is that something on your priority list?  My experience with rent control is that it has torn our City (Berkley) apart, landlord verses tenant.  People never move and there’s very little new housing. The housing shortage is worse now than it was before the rent control. 
Riche explained that rent control is banned in Oregon.  It was in a Legislative Bill in the last legislature but did not move forward.
 
Audience member:  It’s difficult for people to get HUD housing in Ashland because there are no available rentals that qualify for HUD vouchers.  People have a hard time renting because they have to prove they make three times the income of the rent.   I don’t think the standard subsidy HUD uses is appropriate for our area, it’s not a practical number any longer. 
Reid confirmed a lot of people share her feelings and this has not gone un-noticed by affordable housing providers. Reid went on to say the program does not work well in our area because of our high housing prices and the vouchers are capped at too low amount.   The Housing Authority of Jackson County did get some concessions while trying to get the standard amount changed for higher rent areas.   Reid pointed out this needs to be addressed at a Federal level.  She suggested contacting our Senators. 
 
Audience Member:  In regard to large houses being occupied by one person who would like to bring in renters, what would be the obstacles they would face with the City?

Goldman explained if you want to rent out rooms in your house to individuals there would be no reason to come to the City at all, the City has no requirements.  If you want to put a second kitchen in your house in order to have two separate dwellings (ARU) and the new unit is under 500 square feet, you would just need a building permit but no planning process.  If you would like to have a separate detached unit you then would go through a planning process as well as a building permit.  There are costs associated with that process; construction costs, planning applications, system development charges, permit costs, etc. 
 
Audience Member:  Does that include tiny houses?

Goldman explained that the State Building code states that if the house is on wheels its considered a Recreational Vehicle and are not considered habitable under Oregon State Building code as a permanent dwelling. If the tiny house was not on a trailer but had a foundation with plumbing and electrical it could be considered a tiny ARU. We do not regulate the size.
 
Audience Member:  How can we know what options are available for property owners.
Goldman stressed the importance of education and outreach.  Staff has recently discussed creating a hand out with a prescriptive path of creating an ARU explaining the process.  This would be handed out at the Community Development Department.
 
Audience Member:  I don’t remember housing being so bad in our Community.  Can you shed some light on why housing has got to this point in our town?  We have a housing crisis in Ashland.

Franks shared that from her point of view wages are not high enough and the housing prices have increased over the years.   Supply and demand has made a difference.  Reid commented, the overall picture has a lot to do with each person’s ideology and beliefs. Could be a variety of things, livability, supply of land and restrictions, economic changes, regulatory barriers, etc.  Goldman added, that Ashland has only a one percent vacancy rate, a healthy vacancy rate is five percent.  That would allow move from rental unit to another because there is plenty of hose from. Rental units turn over very quickly in this community.
 
Audience member:  A lack of high density housing zoning within our community has effected rents.  I would like to see the City Council defer the system development fees and would like to see some bonding within the City.  Rents are so high because we don’t have supply.  We do not have any opportunity zones that were allocated in the City of Ashland.  An opportunity zone is a place where investors can come in and put money into land and businesses and defer the taxes.  This would help keep money invested in our community if the City would get on board with the high density zoning it would help decrease the costs. 
           
Rohde addressed the issue of no cause evictions that still happens in Ashland.  This disrupts children and families. The state now allows cities to do something about that locally, emphasized Rohde.  The City of Portland has addressed it by requiring a relocation fee if the eviction was without cause.   
 
Reppond was concerned about the reports of people getting fifty or one-hundred percent rent increases.  It seems like we should be able to do something about that.
 
After the discussion Rohde invited everyone in the audience to stay for the next agenda item, Housing Element and Housing Strategies. 
 
HOUSING ELEMENT UPDATE
Goldman gave a brief overview of the Housing Element Update. This document is available on the City of Ashland website.  All cities in Oregon have a Comprehensive Plan or General Plan that includes twelve individual areas that relate to items like transportation, parks, environmental resources, public services etc.  The Housing Element includes both goals and policies.  A goal statement is an attempt to illustrate what the City is striving for and policies are statements supportive of those goals.  The current Housing Element was developed in 1982/1989.  Staff is updating the Housing Element in order to remove the language reflected from the census data in 1980 to provide more specific information on rental rates and housing costs. The hope is to present a general view of change over time and not be so time specific as when it was drafted back in the 1980’s.  Two adopted technical supporting documents are the Buildable Lands Inventory and the Housing Needs Analysis.
 
Goldman explained the process.  The Housing and Human Services Commission and the Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council.  Once they receive the recommendation City Council will review it at a Study Session in January 2019.  Ultimately in February and March the City Council will have a Public Hearing in order to make a formal decision.
 
After staff’s presentation on the Housing Element and Ashland Housing Strategies the following comments were made during the public forum.
 
Isleen Glatt, Senior Services Superintendent for the Senior Services Division of the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission spoke.  Ms. Glatt thanked the Commission for having a policy related to age friendly, accessible and age in place housing.  Glad to see the needs of seniors specifically being noted in this plan. Ms. Glatt also mentioned that all the other policies related to affordability, unit size, house styles, etc. impacts our seniors as well.
 
Forest Berg, is a planner who started a company with a group of people called GreenEarthCity.org.  This is a company that focuses on sustainability developments both urban and rural.  Mr. Berg shared that as we study the current system and as we impose on the natural world he would like to see in our planning structure a stronger emphasis on a comprehensive system as a whole and move away from actual zoning.  His company looks at the whole system design and development both socially and ecologically.  The premise of zoning is what we as a society have pushed upon the earth. We have lost our village.  Mr. Berg would like the wording in the future to have a little more teeth with the developers to encourage them to help solve the inherent problems that are coming such as energy, food production and increase of fire.  Mr. Berg would like to see planning do a little more comprehensive review with the developments presented to them. No reason that Ashland should be totally dependent on fossil fuels, stated Mr. Berg.
 
Jesse Sharpe, works with tenants every day listening to their housing issues such as no cause evictions and rent increases.  At least once a week Mr. Sharpe speaks with someone who is becoming homeless.  Mr. Sharpe would love to see some recommendations going to the City Council involving rent protections such as relocation assistance and mitigating the displacement of tenants. 
 
George Kramer, was concerned about the use of the word “encourage” multifamily development.  Encourage implies it would still be possible to build a single family residence in a multi-family zone, emphasized Mr. Kramer.   Ashland has areas of multifamily zoning that are never going to be developed as multifamily.  Mr. Kramer suggested saying “We will build multifamily developments in multifamily zones.” 
 
Teresa Safay, remarked it would help to keep rents lower in multiplex’s if the City offered the property owners a utility break.  Ms. Safay manages an eleven-plex on "B" Street.  She said that the property owners pay more than one month of rent just to cover the water.  If those rates could be lower, it would be possible to keep the rents down. 
 
Regina Ayars, acknowledged the ideas in this document are great however being doable is something else.  Ms. Ayars asked “Where is a timeline going to be referred too?”  Each item has a priority assigned to it but that is the only indication of importance nothing refers to when it should happen.  Ms. Ayars is asking for a timeline associated with the document that would reflect the ability to actually accomplish these goals and strategies. 
 
Rhode closed the Public Hearing and the Commissioners discussed whether to adopt the policies on the Comprehensive Plan as presented. 
 
The discussion included:
  • Ideas for implementation of the strategies. 
  • Adopting a timeline for implementation of the policies (strategies) 
  • Possibility of using the word “require” rather than "encourage" when it comes to required housing in multi-family zones. 
The Commission asked Goldman “What would be the best way to put more teeth in it?”  Goldman responded, the requirement of multi-family housing has been done in a couple of areas, the Crowman Mill Site and the Transit Triangle.   Some of the Crowman land was rezoned from Industrial to Multi-family requiring at least 25 percent of the units to be multi-family.  The Transit Triangle has an optional overlay and if a developer chooses to use the transit triangle rules they would have to provide apartments. 
Require a Conditional Use Permit in order to construct a Single Family Residence in a Multi-family zone. Goldman pointed out that in 2004/2005 in all multi-family zones a minimum density established, that precluded the development of less than eighty percent of the minimum density for that zone.  This largely precluded single family homes on multi-family zoned parcels.  It did not preclude condos and townhomes, however. 

Reppond/DuQuenne m/s to accept the Comprehensive Plan as proposed. The Commissioners discussed the motion.
 
Rohde commented that "We still have a lot to do in regards to the strategies but this is a big step forward."  The Commissioners agreed the language has to be broad enough so that it allows everything in that is reasonable.  The strategies are the more specific ideas on how to go forward with the plan. It’s easier to accept the comprehensive plan and then the strategies can be adjusted along the way.
 
Vote; All in favor in accepting it raise your hand.  Everyone voted yes.
 
The Commissioners agreed to have a deeper discussion of the Housing Strategies at their December goal setting retreat.  
 
DECEMBER 20, 2018 MEETING AGENDA ITEMS
Discuss the strategies
Chad McComas from Rogue Retreat will be a guest speaker
 
City Council is scheduled to discuss the overnight camping ordinance at their Study Session on the December 19, 2018. 
 
UPCOMING EVENTS AND MEETINGS
Housing and Human Services Commission Regular Meeting Goal Setting Retreat 3:30-6:30 PM, December 20, 2018, at the Ashland Hills Hotel.
 
ADJOURNMENT
The meeting was adjourned at 6:45p.m.
Respectfully submitted by Carolyn Schwendener 
 

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