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  • Writer's pictureEric Hansen

Housing in Ashland

Affordable Housing in Ashland

Ashland has been discussing housing and affordable housing for 20 years, we can go all the way back to Housing Commission meetings in November of 2001 and there were discussions about protecting our vulnerable citizens and especially those in mobile home parks. So why does this continue to be an issue? I believe the issue isn’t that we don’t know how to solve the problem, but that there is a lack of leadership and political willingness to address the problem boldly. Ashland doesn’t need small fixes so that elected officials can pat themselves on the back, Ashland needs an aggressive and courageous approach to this problem. I promise you, that if elected I will be this voice. I don’t want to just talk about it, I want to be a part of the solution.

The availability of affordable housing is essential for any community and has recently become a growing concern in rural areas, Ashland is no different. Over the past couple of years, the demand for multi-family housing has grown in rural areas and small towns while it has shrunk in highly urbanized areas, suburbs, and exurbs of large cities. However, the housing supply in many rural communities has not been able to keep up with this demand and affordability is a problem.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the ways many people work and live. One of these changes has been an increase in the number of people who are trading in life in a big city for small-town living, including higher-income earners who work from home. And, as seen in communities across the country, when population and demand grow, so do local housing prices.

As rural areas continue to draw new population growth, they must take steps to ensure they meet new demand while also protecting housing affordability for existing residents and maintaining their unique small-town character and appeal. It is incumbent on the City and the Community to address this issue in a multi-faceted way.

One strategy that addresses existing housing challenges and helps preserve community character is to focus on repairing and renovating existing housing stock. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is also responsible for rural economic development in the U.S., the current rural rental home market will need an investment of nearly $5.6 billion over the next 20 years to preserve more than 470,000 rental homes currently in disrepair.

Single-family homes also often fall into disrepair and obsolescence. By investing in the restoration of its current housing stock and by turning single-family homes into multi-family units where needed, rural communities can address pre-existing housing repair needs while also providing additional affordable housing units to meet new demands.

Another strategy is Community land trusts which have also been used effectively to acquire and reserve existing developable land and even existing vacant housing to ensure it remains affordable for future use. Units that are included in the land trust can be price-controlled, even when sold, and the owners or renters are often provided with homebuyer education classes, and finance and maintenance counseling. Land trust properties often result in lower rates of mortgage delinquency and foreclosure.

Where possible, it can be beneficial to work with other nearby communities. Housing challenges and needs are not limited by geography and often spill over into surrounding communities. Regions can better address their housing needs by working with others to fully understand and address the challenges.

Other strategies to support a fair housing market include, but are not limited to:

· Employing inclusionary zoning practices

· Incentivizing affordable housing through density bonuses

· Waiving fees and creating tax exemptions or incentives for affordable developers

· Allowing for flexibility in development by minimizing development restrictions

· Prioritizing work with affordable developers

· Using overlay zoning to create additional housing development opportunities

·Creating a diverse housing stock that includes mobile homes, tiny homes, cottage clusters, multi-plexes, townhomes, single-family homes, and more

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