What are Ashland's housing needs?

After a volatile decade for the housing market, city officials are hoping Ashland residents will answer a new survey designed to paint a picture of housing conditions and needs in town.

The city last did a housing needs survey in 2002. The new survey will be up on the city's website through January 2012 and takes less than five minutes to complete.

"Our housing market has changed so dramatically," said city housing program specialist Linda Reid. "Theoretically, if Ashland is following national trends, we'll see more people renting and more multigenerational households."

The survey asks what type of housing respondents live in, how many bedrooms they have, how many people live there, how many are employed, the cities where household members work, household income, whether there has been foreclosure pressure, the respondent's satisfaction with housing options and whether the household contains university students, children younger than 18 or people older than 65.

While residents can answer the questions online, the city has mailed surveys to landlords and property management companies to try and get data about vacancy rates and whether rents have gone up, down or stayed the same, Reid said.

The Southern Oregon Rental Owners Association gathers data on vacancy rates for the Rogue Valley, but the information is not specific to Ashland. Because of Medford's size, the association's data are probably skewed toward the valley's largest city, Reid said.

"We don't know if rents have gone up and if the cost burden is higher," Reid said of Ashland's rental market.

City officials are hoping that a wide variety of people — from renters to homeowners to those looking for housing — will respond to the survey.

"We need as many people and as many different demographic groups as possible to respond so we can try and meet the needs of those groups," Reid said. "To get a clear picture we need to hear what needs are being met and what needs are not being met. We need to know what's working and what's not. What works for a college student may not work for a young family or an elderly couple."

Ashland hired outside companies to do the housing needs survey in 2002 and a rental needs survey in 2007. To save money, the city is doing the new survey with in-house staff and a Southern Oregon University student intern who is studying planning, Reid said.

The 2007 survey found a need for more one-bedroom and studio apartments, but city officials don't know whether that need still exists, she said.

All answers on the new survey are confidential.

The city will use the results from residents, landlords and property management companies to help craft an analysis that will include data on land supply, population projections and other relevant topics, city officials said.

Oregon requires local governments to "encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households."

To take housing needs survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/housingneedsupdate.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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