A resident survey found that 94 percent of respondents rated Ashland as a good or excellent place to live, but many said affordable housing, job opportunities and services for the poor and homeless are lacking.
The survey, done in late 2012 with results released this month, provides a voice for residents and can alert the City Council and staff of issues they might need to address, said Ashland Management Analyst Ann Seltzer. Cost of the survey was $16,000, she said.
When asked about issues Ashland should address, respondents said the top five were providing affordable housing, creating economic development incentives, creating a city government sustainability plan and having an overnight shelter and day-use center for homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless.
Just 14 percent of respondents said employment opportunities were good or excellent in town, although that was a slight uptick from 2011's 12 percent.
Job growth was seen as too slow by 91 percent, a slight improvement from the 94 percent who had that opinion in 2011.
On economic development services in town, only 34 percent said they were good or excellent.
Respondents were pleased with the businesses that are in town, with 73 percent saying they are good or excellent.
Only 20 percent rated the availability of affordable housing as good or excellent, and 48 percent were paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing — meaning they were burdened by housing costs, according to government benchmarks.
When communities don't have affordable housing, workers must live elsewhere and commute in, a costly option that worsens traffic congestion and air quality, according to the survey report.
After paying for housing, lower-income residents have little money left over to bolster local businesses, the report said.
Regarding public safety, 97 percent felt safe in their neighborhoods during the day and 82 percent felt safe there at night.
Downtown, 92 percent felt safe during the day, but that figure dropped to 64 percent at night.
Compared to 2011, people's sense of safety dipped in their neighborhoods and downtown, and people felt less safe from violent crime and property crime.
Oddly, compared with residents of other cities, Ashlanders were much less likely to report that they had been victims of crime to police.
Police services scored well, with 82 percent of respondents rating them as good or excellent.
Respondents also gave high marks to fire and ambulance services, with both surpassing 90 percent.
The vast majority of respondents also rated parks and electricity, sewer, water, recycling and garbage services as good or excellent.
Ashlanders were more active than people in other communities, with a majority participating in recreation programs and activities and almost everyone visiting parks.
On cultural opportunities, 83 percent said they were good or excellent, and 84 percent said the same of educational opportunities, putting Ashland's ratings high above other cities.
A full 92 percent said Ashland was a good or excellent place to raise children, and 89 percent said it was a good or excellent place to retire.
People rated services to seniors and youths well, but only 33 percent said services for low-income people were good or excellent.
As for transportation, 77 percent rated ease of bicycle travel as good or excellent, up a few percentage points from 2011.
However, 62 percent of respondents rated ease of car travel as good or excellent — down 10 percentage points from 2011 — while ease of bus travel slipped to 43 percent rating it as good or excellent, down five percentage points.
Ease of walking kept a high score, with 90 percent saying it was good or excellent.
Only 33 percent said the amount of public parking was good or excellent.
On the growth front, 65 percent of respondents rated the quality of new development as good or excellent, and 63 percent said Ashland was experiencing the right amount of population growth.
To read the full survey results, visit www.dailytidings.com/2013citizensurvey.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.