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Agenda & Minutes

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Housing Advisory Commission (View All)

Housing Advisory Commission Study Session Agenda & Minutes

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

December 18, 2019                                                
6:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.                                                                        
Medford Police Department, Prescott Room
219 S. Ivy Street, Medford, Oregon
The study session of the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) was called to order at 6:00 PM in the Medford Police Department, Prescott Room, 219 S. Ivy Street, Medford, Oregon on the above date with the following members and staff in attendance:
Commissioners Present Staff Present
Jason Elzy, Vice Chair
Randell Embertson, Chair
Steven Erb
Randy Jones
Debra Lee
John Michaels
Matthew Stranahan
Paul Tanner
City Council Present
Dick Gordon
City Council Absent
Clay Bearnson
Matt Brinkley, Staff Liaison
Angela Durant, Staff Liaison
Aleia Fletcher, Staff Liaison
Kyle Kearns, Staff Liaison
Madison Simmons, Legal Staff Liaison
Harry Weiss, Staff Liaison
Staff Absent
Carla Paladino, Staff Liaison


10.   Community Discussion: Addressing Rent Burden
Introduction                                                              Angela Durant, Medford Principal Planner
City of Medford’s Principal Planner Angela Durant welcomed everyone and thanked the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC), which hosted tonight’s annual community discussion addressing rent burden and serves as an advisory body to Medford City Council on all matters related to housing. She also introduced and thanked presenters/panelists and guests for attending.

HB4006 Update & Housing Market                             Matt Brinkley, Medford Planning Director
City of Medford’s Planning Director Matt Brinkley reviewed that severe rent burden is where a household spends more than 50% of their household income on gross rent (rent plus estimated average monthly cost of utilities) for housing. According to House Bill (HB) 4006, cities with populations greater than 10,000 that have more than 25% of households determined to be severely rent burdened must hold an annual community discussion of issues and solutions to rent burden.

Data is provided by the American Community Survey (ACS), which estimates 31% of Medford’s population are severe rent burdened, 4,500 households out of every 14,800 households; four out of five households with extremely low incomes, below 30% Area Median Income (AMI), are considered rent burdened.

Mr. Brinkley explained that the lack of housing affordability is dependent upon two factors, income and the cost of rental housing. Low vacancy rates of rentals and high home purchase prices have increased the demand due to restricted supply. While housing affordability may have slightly improved due to historic lows of unemployment in Jackson County, the improvement has not been very significant. Mr. Brinkley discussed how Medford’s median cost of rent, compared to other metropolitan areas in Oregon, is above the average median rent cost.

Following overall discussion of the issue of rent burden, Mr. Brinkley reviewed solutions that the City of Medford is working to implement, in order to assist with alleviating this issue.

These include:
  • Regulatory reforms
    • Implementing streamlined administrative review processes
    • Expanding opportunities for the development of middle density housing, which includes duplexes, triplexes, cottage clusters and townhomes
    • Modifying site development standards that accommodate more development of “naturally occurring” affordable housing like Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
  • Economic incentives and support
    • Creation of the Housing Opportunity Fund (HOF), supporting development of affordable housing
    • System Development Charge deferral (implemented) and discussion of relief
    • Residential development tax abatement programs
    • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), General Fund Grant (GFG), and Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding opportunities; Receivership program
Mr. Brinkley then examined what actions can be taken by the public and concerned citizens, which included: education, advocacy and participation. Key components of these steps include: attending and advocating at meetings for policy and cultivating partnerships with developers to help build more affordable housing.

Affordable Housing Development                                               Jason Elzy, Executive Director  
                                                                                                           Housing Authority of Jackson County
Housing Authority of Jackson County’s (HAJC) Executive Director Jason Elzy provided background regarding the HAJC and its services, assisting more than 5,000 households per year.

One of the largest programs administered by the HAJC is the Housing Choice Voucher program (also known as Section 8), which administers more than 2,185 Housing Choice Vouchers, including 300 VASH Vouchers (for veterans) and 85 mainstream vouchers for the non-elderly disabled. Housing Choice Vouchers are considered a rental subsidy, in which participants pay 30% of their household income towards rent with the voucher assisting with the difference. Additionally, the HAJC owns and manages over 1,500 affordable rentals in Jackson and Josephine counties, comprising of over 30 self-managing housing sites.

The HAJC also assists with programs outside of traditional housing needs, including the Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which helps clients to set and attain long-range goals related to self-sufficiency, including: credit building, establishing a savings account, purchasing a home, or starting a business. Additionally, HAJCprovides resident services, such as: after-school programs, youth summer camps, adult extended learning programs, referrals, classes in employability, personal finance, life skills, and homeownership readiness, in addition to providing referrals and maintaining strong community partners as resources.

HAJC is also a multi-family housing developer, developing 50-100 affordable housing units per year to households at or below 80% AMI. Funding is provided using a variety of resources, including: the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC); HOME, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT), Housing Trust Fund, energy rebates, and tax credits; and public and private financing.

Currently, there is a waitlist of 3,500 households awaiting affordable housing, illustrating the need for increased affordable housing. While this is down from 5,000 households previously, potential clients have experienced a challenging time locating housing (due to the limited supply of housing) and thus, have a current 65% success rate with locating housing using Housing Choice Vouchers, versus a previous success rate of 85% in the last five years. In addition, tenants with housing barriers have also experienced decreased success, such as those with: no or unfavorable rental history, criminal history, no security deposits, and housing search barriers.

While the supply of housing is challenging, and waitlists for affordable housing sites have time frames between six months to three years, the HAJC has also experienced multiple successes within 2019 that have benefited the community.

Key highlights include:
  • Availability of 85 new mainstream HUD Vouchers
  • Completion of 64 new units of affordable housing through Newbridge Place in Medford
  • 50 new units of affordable housing under construction through Creekside Apartments in Central Point
  • Funding 60 new units of affordable housing through Snowberry Brook II in Ashland
  • Planning 50 new units of affordable housing through Freedom Square in White City
  • Assisting 20 low-income homeowners with home repair loans in Medford
  • Establishing new community partnerships for housing with supportive services
SB 608 & Addressing Rent Burden          Representative Kim Wallan
Representative Kim Wallan explained that the recession contributed to the issue of rent burden, as many contractors and licensed professionals relocated following the recession due to lack of work coupled with challenging and expensive professional licensure requirements, making it costly for builders to construct housing.

Additionally, Ms. Wallan explained that state policy has emphasized the importance of attendance of traditional college versus trade schools, contributing to creation of a limited experienced workforce in the construction industry.

Ms. Wallan also credits the high cost of rent to the lack of construction workforce, which is also due to restrictive land use laws coupled with other costs associated with construction and potential unknown consequences of Senate Bill (SB) 608 regarding rent control.

Rental Market                          Matt Stranahan, Public Affairs Director
                                                   CPM Real Estate Services, Inc.
CPM Real Estate Services’ Public Affairs Director Matt Stranahan explored what three factors have been affecting rent costs: 1) regulation, as SB 608 limits rent increases to 7% + the Consumer Price Index (CPI); 2) taxes and expenses, as property taxes increase about 3% each year with higher costs for materials and labor; and 3) market valuation, determined by multiple factors including a low 2-4% vacancy rate and rising home purchase prices.

Mr. Stranahan explained that the limited supply has driven up the demand, increasing rent costs. A driving force that can impact the relationship between supply and demand in regards to housing cost is competition, which involves, in general, the need for increased housing supply to assist with reducing average housing costs. Rental rates are a market price, which are affected by the cost of taxes, insurance and disproportionately costs of labor. Mr. Stranahan, as a commissioner of the HAC, concluded that the HAC is actively seeking to address this issue by helping increase the affordable housing supply within Medford through identifying creative solutions, including the HOF, which assists with funding affordable housing development; and policy reform.

Tenant Support Services       Jesse Sharpe, Southern Oregon Regional Organizer
                                                  Community Alliance of Tenants
Community Alliance of Tenants’ (CAT) Southern Oregon Regional Organizer Jesse Sharp reviewed that CAT, a tenant membership organization building a strong housing justice movement in Oregon, focuses on working and assisting low-income tenants facing eviction and other major housing crises. Services provided by CAT include (with availability of Spanish translation services): a renters’ rights hotline, letter writing support and advocacy, renters’ rights community trainings and education, tenant advocacy and support, building neighborhood organizing to address grievances, one-on-one support for tenants in crisis, and more.

CAT seeks to assist with the power imbalance between renters and landlords through tenant advocacy, which includes assistance with common issues, such as repairs, evictions, rent increases, deposits and harassment. While Oregon law requires landlords to maintain and keep a home in decent repair, this may not always be followed through. Medford does not have a complaint-based inspection program; if issues arise regarding home repairs, tenants are often forced to seek recourse through legal support, which may lead to escalation of the issue and often to eviction court, that which should be treated as a last resort. CAT emphasizes that best practices involve trying to work directly with the landlord to first resolve the issue and then, writing a demand letter, reminding the landlord of their legal obligation to perform general maintenance and repairs, which is often sufficient enough for landlords to perform work on repairs.

Although SB 608 provided CAT with tools and support to push back against eviction/non-compliance with landlord responsibilities, there is not a strong enforcement mechanism, which requires tenants to create their own legal defense using the above best practices of prevention through communication between landlords and tenants and best practices regarding documentation/maintaining records of landlord-renter interactions. Mr. Sharp also explained that houselessness is often a result of a consistent lack of access to services, such as legal support, inspection support, letter writing advocacy, documentation support, case workers, and self-advocacy networks; as well as access to food, health, and other critical services, in order to assist with holistic stabilization of individuals.

In order to best serve those impacted, Mr. Sharp strongly believes we treat both landlords and renters as experts in their respective fields, due to their own experiences; he encourages tenants to participate in tenant advocacy through joining elected neighborhood tenants boards, implementing members of tenant-led organizations into decision-making bodies, and participating in public forums. Lastly, Mr. Sharp emphasizes for tenants to document all conversations, interactions (including maintaining proof of payments), and verbal agreements (through writing via use of email or letters) with their landlords, even if renters have good established relationships with their landlords.

Small Group Discussions    Commissioners and Community Members
Panelists, commissioners, and community members worked together in small groups to brainstorm several questions regarding addressing rent burden in Medford.

For ‘What are your top three concerns regarding rent burden in our community?’, key highlights included:
  • Addressing lack of general and affordable housing supply, along with issue of overcrowding
    • Challenge of high development costs and costs of materials
    • Need for increased permanent skilled labor in construction workforce and other industries
  • Homelessness
    • Lack of resources for those with fixed incomes and families
    • Rising rental costs
For ‘What are some ideas of actions the City of Medford could take to help increase the number of renter households paying 30 percent of their household income on housing costs including rent and utilities?’, key highlights included:
  • Incentivizing overall development, particularly for variety of affordable housing types
    • Figuring ways to help address fees and taxes associated with development
    • Adjusting/lessening zoning regulations
    • Waiving System Development Charges (SDCs) for developers for certain period of time
  • Lowering cost of utilities
  • Supporting public space/forum to listen to a variety of perspectives
For ‘What are some ideas of actions other community stakeholders could take to help increase the number of renter households paying 30 percent of their household income on housing costs including rent and utilities?’, key highlights included:
  • Increasing and incentivizing development of affordable housing
    • Increasing percentage of required affordable housing in development
    • Creating more mobile homes and trailer parks as affordable housing options
  • Supporting access to housing stabilization resources
    • Creating additional ‘housing navigator’ positions to help people obtain and maintain long-term housing
    • Having property management companies create a fund for deposits to help low-income renters obtain housing
    • Educating community on becoming effective landlords
    • Creating a fund to help pay for potential damages and overhead for renters to help lessen risk and incentivize development
  • Offering solar-powered solutions to help decrease power costs
Closing Comments               Matt Brinkley, Medford Planning Director
                                                 Jason Elzy, Vice-Chair Housing Advisory Commission
Mr. Brinkley discussed that the City of Medford commissioned a residential market study, which will be used to help tailor a program for the development of economic incentives and regulatory reforms. The City is currently seeking to help streamline the process for multi-family housing development and make this an administrative process, decreasing time, in order to encourage developers to build multi-family housing. In addition, the City is looking into an innovative Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) program, which will assist with supporting affordable housing.

Vice Chair Jason Elzy of the HAC discussed that the HAC is actively listening to concerns and feedback, in order to enact potential change, and will utilize this to analyze and review decisions impacting housing in the community. The public is welcome to attend HAC meetings, and there is an open commission seat currently available on the HAC, which interested parties are welcome to apply to.

20.     Adjourn
Meeting adjourned at 8:00 PM.

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