MINUTES FOR THE JOINT STUDY SESSION
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL / HOUSING COMMISSION
April 17, 2002 at noon.
Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Housing Commissioner Nancy Richardson called the meeting to order at 12:08pm.
Councilors: Hearn, Hartzell, and Reid. Housing Commissioners: Diana Goodwin-Shavey, Aaron Benjamin, Larry Medinger, Andy Dungan, Nancy Richardson, Richard Seidman. Staff: John McLaughlin, Bill Molnar, and Greg Scoles.
1. Presentation regarding City of Ashland Housing Needs Analysis.
Bill Molnar, Senior Planner, introduced ECONorthwest representative, Bob Parker. Parker also serves as an instructor for the University of Oregon in their Planning, Public Policy, and Management program. Parker gave a report presentation on the Ashland Housing Needs Analysis. Note: City of Ashland Housing Needs Analysis complete report attached to minutes for reference.
Parker noted that among the varied implications of this study are 1) Low income households compete with higher income families for the same units, 2) Land for multifamily is being used for single family owner occupied units, forcing lower income workers to live in other communities (50% live elsewhere). Parker explained that income figures came from two sources, Market research and Employment Security data, and that while neither of the sources includes data on accumulated wealth, the numbers more or less tell the story. He suggested that the City pay close attention to census data as it comes available in order to gain more insight on the income/wealth of residents.
Parker explained how accessory units were reported and that figures from issued permits were used. Shavey wondered what consequence the City might face if zones were restricted and if such restriction might be a "takings" issue. Molnar noted that this was something that should be discussed with the City Attorney.
Parker clarified that a gross income figure was used which included utilities, tax, insurance, and house payment. Medinger expressed alarm that due to affordability issues the city may be losing a whole generation of people and suggested focusing on this trend in the final report. Dungan noted that economic development issues are important and to put things in terms of people's pocket books.
Parker noted that an analysis of "Buildable Lands" for purchase had not been done. He explained that the State does not let you look at blocks of land that are not available for various reasons. Shavey wondered if that might make the recommendations in the report dangerous, because the land is not really available. Molnar noted that staff would like direction from the Commission in regards to this issue because the study did not include Land Use studies. He recommended that Staff review what is available and investigate the possibility of swapping lands.
Hearn asked what might be done about "affordable housing" that is not as affordable as housing available outside of town. Parker noted the distinction between housing "need" and housing "demand," and that Ashland is competing in a regional market. Reid said that we need to be practical and suggested looking at what is working in town and using that as a model. Parker agreed about the need to be realistic concerning housing issues, and suggested stepping up efforts to create more government-assisted housing and provide incentives. Shavey noted that land is needed for the models mentioned and that the Housing Commission encourages the Council to set aside money to assist in land acquisition. Molnar noted that funding is competitive. Shavey suggested looking into, and taking advantage of, credits that are given for "difficult to develop" census tracts.
Hartzell noted the investment market in Ashland and that it makes families compete against investors for available units. She wondered about strategies that might turn this around, and suggested using market dynamics to our advantage. Parker noted that one thing that could be done is to look at assessment data and determine how many absentee landlords there are. Parker explained that the percentage of rental units controlled by management companies is substantial, but he has no exact figures due to lack of response from these companies.
It was noted that many cities, including Ashland, are not in compliance with Goal 10. That Goal 10 is a planning initiative and by doing this Housing Study and formulating strategies, the City demonstrates that the Goal is being taken seriously.
It was noted that "buildable lands" are an important issue because the City is not meeting needs. Parker suggested that land value numbers be looked at to determine changes in land values. The increase in inflow of workers traveling to Ashland was noted. Parker noted that they did not look into the dynamics of the employment market as it was outside of the scope of the study. Reid stated that since we cannot dictate where people live, we need to put energy into programs that will work for low-income people. Richardson noted that low-income people do not want to be grouped in a certain area and that housing should be developed in areas where people want to live. Reid noted that there is movement within the community that shifts where desirable neighborhoods are located and that we need to make all neighborhoods desirable.
Shavey expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to dialog on this issue and noted the importance of affordability issues and "needs" vs. "market" issues. She stated that this is not a "us" vs. "them" issue, but rather about making housing solutions for everyone in town
Ron Demly spoke about affordability gaps and that it would be very useful to have a definition of "affordability." He asked that this be taken further and to find out where income levels are coming from. Parker noted that the data they have does not allow us to do that cross correlation. Shavey suggested looking at "income vs. age." Parker said they would look at that and make some observations.
Carl Harris asked, 1) Is the city working against itself in affordable housing? 2) How will the new tree ordinance affect affordable housing? 3) Are we working against ourselves by capturing open space? He wondered about "sustainability" and housing being affordable in perpetuity. He wondered about partnering with State and/or Federal agencies to secure funding. He suggested considering realistic goals in City policies and sustainable affordability.
Richardson noted that when looking at rentals, the ones that are available are not affordable and that employees are moving farther out and some leaving because affordable housing is not near enough. It was noted that City policies can help or hinder and that Council could make a decision to invest more money.
Richardson commended the report and suggested starting a housing trust fund and considering zoning issues.
Meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Jan Brunelle, Assistant to City Recorder