Ashland's a great place to live

Editor's note: This is one of three stories on a recent survey of Ashland residents' opinions on their community and government services. The other stories will run Friday and Saturday.

Many residents rate Ashland as a great place to live, but say there isn't enough quality affordable housing.

In January, the city of Ashland had National Research Center Inc. send a questionnaire to 1,200 randomly selected residents; 475 were returned. City officials heard the findings this week.

In the anonymous survey, 96 percent of respondents rated Ashland as a good or excellent place to live. That percentage was much higher than for average American cities, and also much higher when comparing Ashland to other university towns with populations between 10,000 and 40,000, according to the National Research Center.

However, only 19 percent rated the availability of quality affordable housing as good or excellent. That figure was far below numbers for average Americans as well as residents of other university towns.

As one Ashlander noted in a section where people could write comments, "Ashland needs more affordable housing for seniors and the middle class that can't afford homes here or benefit from HUD or low income assistance."

In partnership with various agencies, Ashland has built several affordable projects in recent years, but its efforts are focused mainly on low-income people.

Concern about the high cost of housing in town has lingered despite drops in market prices. The median price for new and existing homes in Ashland was above $400,000 five years ago, but had dropped to $230,000 for existing homes sold in March. Sales of new homes are practically nonexistent these days, according to the Southern Oregon Multiple Listing Service.

According to the survey, renters make up 48 percent of households, with homeowners making up the rest. At 54 percent, more than half of households paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing, indicating they are financially burdened by housing costs.

In Ashland, 42 percent of households paid more than $1,000 monthly for housing.

Most people were happy with their own neighborhoods, with 83 percent saying they were good or excellent places to live.

A full 87 percent said the opportunity to attend cultural events was good or excellent, and the same percentage ranked recreational opportunities as good or excellent.

Biking is the easiest way to get around, respondents said, with 75 percent ranking ease of bicycling as good or excellent, compared to 72 percent for ease of driving and 70 percent for ease of walking. Just 48 percent rated ease of bus travel as good or excellent.

Several commented that Rogue Valley Transportation District buses need to travel into more neighborhoods and run on evenings and weekends. A majority — 69 percent — said they had not ridden the bus even one time during the past year. Another 16 percent had ridden only once or twice.

A total of 85 percent of residents said they never or very rarely ride the bus.

Still, Ashlanders' bus use is similar to other university towns of comparable size, and much higher than nationwide rates, according to the National Research Center.

People were pleased with the availability of paths and walking trails, with 89 percent rating those as good or excellent. Only 64 percent said traffic flow on major streets was good or excellent, and 46 percent said the amount of public parking was good or excellent.

"More public parking, please!" one resident wrote.

Another person said the city should do more to encourage locals and tourists to get out of their cars and walk, bike and ride the bus, especially in the downtown area.

On the environmental front, 98 percent of people said they recycled, while 75 percent said Ashland is doing a good or excellent job of preserving natural areas.

A total of 82 percent of people said Ashland had a good or excellent sense of community.

Two-thirds of people said they had volunteered at least once in the past year, slightly more than half participated in a club or civic group, and 96 percent had helped a friend or neighbor. Three-quarters of people talked to their neighbors at least several times each month.

"This amount of contact with neighbors was more than the amount of contact reported in other communities," the National Research Center said, noting that volunteerism and participation in groups was also high.

To see details of the complete survey, visit

Reach Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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