Ashland won't get housing crisis funds

Ashland will not get a share of the $3.92 billion in federal funding that is going to cities to help them buy up foreclosed properties and turn them into affordable housing.

In Oregon, cities with a need for affordable housing will divide up $19.6 million.

Ashland is classified as an "entitlement community" because of the high cost of housing here. That allows it to get such federal funding as annual Community Development Block Grants.

But Ashland and Corvallis are the only two entitlement communities in the state that are not receiving the new money to buy foreclosures. That's because federal Housing and Urban Development statistics show Ashland and Corvallis don't have high enough foreclosure rates, said city of Ashland Housing Program Specialist Linda Reid.

"The areas with the greatest need got the funding. Ashland is low on the list for foreclosures," she said.

The city of Los Angeles alone is receiving $33 million to buy foreclosed homes and turn them into affordable housing, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently announced.

In 2007, more than 5,200 families in that sprawling city lost their homes due to foreclosure, and that number is expected to rise to 10,000 by the end of this year. At 44,000 people, Los Angeles also has the nation's biggest homeless population. Employers complain that high housing costs make it hard to lure job recruits and workers commute long distances from outlying suburbs, the Associated Press reported.

Ashland also has homeless people and 4,700 workers — or 55 percent of its workforce — commute from other cities, former Ashland Planning Director John Fregonese said in October.

However, Ashland only had a foreclosure rate of 1.7 percent of homes for the past 18 months. At least two-thirds of Oregon cities have higher foreclosure rates, according to Oregon Housing and Community Services figures.

Only 6.4 percent of home buyers in Ashland took out risky loans with expensive interest rates and terms, according to the state agency.

Many foreclosures and pre-foreclosures in Ashland are concentrated in the Billings Ranch development of upscale townhouses and single family houses. The pricey homes went on the market just as the real estate market began to slump. Plans for a nearby golf course also fell through. Vacant lots dot the development.

Reid said even if the city got money to buy foreclosures for affordable housing, the Billings Ranch homes might not be appropriate because of their large size.

Under federal housing guidelines, noise must be taken into account as well. The development on the northwest edge of town is near the railroad tracks and Highway 99.

Reid said she is not hoping that more foreclosures hit Ashland, but that may happen. That could make the city eligible for future funding.

Some people who bought homes in 2007 used 30-year loans with low rates for the first two years but adjustable rates for the next 28 years. Those loans haven't reset yet to higher rates, she said.

"We're only in the first wave of foreclosures. There are some people who don't even realize they're in trouble," Reid said.

People who are having problems making their mortgage payments should call their lenders to try to negotiate new terms. Reid said she went to a recent seminar where a loan provider said 77 percent of people are not calling their lenders to discuss the terms of their loans.

"A lot of people are intimidated," she said.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or To post a comment, visit

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