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Ashland's "Buildable Lands Inventory" breaks down where housing can be built within the city limits (blue line) and Urban Growth Boundary (red line). (City of Ashland map)

Ashland reshaping its piece in a regional puzzle

Revisions on a 5-year-old plan guiding how Ashland plans to accommodate its share of regional population growth in coming decades should be ready this fall, Ashland Planning Commissioners were told during a review of a draft of the updated plan at a study session Aug. 28.

Ashland is one of six communities participating in the Regional Problem Solving (RPS) plan for housing in Jackson County. The plan, already in place for five years, offers a roadmap to accommodate the doubling of the region’s population, which is projected to possibly happen in the next 50 years.

The plans drafted by economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, which has offices in Eugene, Portland, Seattle and Boise, Idaho, are tailored specifically to each participating community to define its role in the comprehensive county plan addressing housing shortages.

The other communities are Central Point, Eagle Point, Medford, Phoenix and Talent.

The regional plan is broad enough to allow each community to fulfill its specific needs. According to a city staff report written by Senior Planner Brandon Goldman, “Participating jurisdictions shall create regional housing strategies that strongly encourage a range of housing types throughout the region within 5 years of acknowledgement of the RPS Plan.”

The plan was filed in March 2013, meaning that sometime this year Ashland should have its five-year update plan drafted and prepared for approval.

The goal is to provide a variety of homes in a variety of price ranges across the region. To come up with ways to do so, ECONorthwest worked alongside the Regional Problem Solving Committee and the state Department of Land Conservation and Development to evaluate local housing programs, land use codes and strategies dedicated to identifying financial incentives, as well as finding funding for affordable housing. They then created a list of strategies.

Bill Molnar, city of Ashland community development coordinator, said he views this draft as recommendations from the consulting firm for the city to evaluate.

“We recognize these are policies that we need to look at more in detail to figure out the best way to implement them,” Molnar said.

“It is both appropriate and desirable that local governments establish their own strategies and that they think regionally about those strategies,” the staff report reads. “The challenge then is ensuring alignment among regional strategies that are adopted by several local governments.”

According to the draft from ECONorthwest, “As part of the RPS, the City of Ashland was the only participating city to not identify urban reserves as it was determined that existing lands within the city limits and urban growth boundary were sufficient to accommodate anticipated growth over the planning period.”

Consultants presented five policy strategies to the city:

1. Provide more affordable housing and opportunities for development of units affordable for middle and lower income families;

2. Encourage development of new multifamily housing;

3. Continue to monitor land development to ensure there is enough residential land to accommodate the long-term forecast of estimated population growth;

4. Develop policies to encourage development by lowering costs for low to middle income housing options; and

5. Develop a construction excise tax on new development to pay for developer incentives.

“Low-income households have income below $2,680 per month and can afford up to $804 in housing costs without being cost burdened. These housing costs are below market rents in Jackson County,” ECONorthwest’s report read.

The city Housing and Human Services Commission is also reviewing the draft.

The revised plan is expected to go before the council for final approval this fall.

Contact Daily Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

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