Families are moving into dozens of completed homes in an Ashland affordable housing project, even as construction workers put the finishing touches on dozens more that will be ready in February.

amilies are moving into dozens of completed homes in an Ashland affordable housing project, even as construction workers put the finishing touches on dozens more that will be ready in February.

For now, 28 one-level apartments and two-story townhouses are finished. In February, 32 more units should be ready, said Jackson County Housing Authority Development Specialist Jason Elzy.

The units on lower Clay Street have one, two or three bedrooms and cost residents $470, $560 or $640, respectively, per month, according to the Housing Authority.

The county agency teamed with the city of Ashland and the state government to provide the housing.

New resident Jean E. Whalen said she got laid off from her job when she was pregnant with her son, who is now a toddler. She took the misfortune as an opportunity to spend time with her son and to go as an adult student to Rogue Community College. She plans to transfer to Southern Oregon University in 18 months to pursue a master's degree in special education.

Before moving to the new housing in Ashland, Whalen said, she lived in a Medford home that had mold. She had to warn her son against touching shards of glass buried in the yard.

Whalen said she was overjoyed when she found out she had been approved for a unit in the Ashland housing complex.

"I started crying. I feel so blessed to be here," she said, with tears in her eyes. "It's so beautiful here."

Whalen said she plans to be a long-term Ashland resident and looks forward to sending her son to Ashland schools.

In the past several years, the Ashland School District has closed two elementary schools because of falling enrollment. Ashland's high housing prices keep many families from buying a home in town. City officials are hopeful that the 60-unit affordable housing project will attract families with children, along with other tenants.

"My son is really happy," Whalen said. "He looks out the window and he's so happy to see kids he can play with. Everyone feels lucky to be here."

The total cost of the 60-unit housing project is $11.39 million.

In 2008, the city of Ashland and Housing Authority joined forces to buy 10 acres on Clay Street for the project. The city provided $620,000 and traded city land valued at $1.7 million.

The Housing Authority's contribution was up to $1.2 million. State and federal money funded the rest.

Earlier this week, workers were installing equipment for a colorful playground next to the complex's community center. Other workers drove nails into homes under construction with nail guns, while a steady stream of trucks from Adroit Construction, Qwest, Pacific Electrical Contractors, Quality Fence Co. and other companies in the building and home services trades came and went from the site.

Adroit Superintendent Rick McKee said an average of about 65 workers from different companies are at the site at any given time. They include architects, carpenters, cabinet makers, landscapers, appliance delivery people, bathtub installers and others.

"It really snowballs. A lot of people are involved. It's provided a lot of employment," McKee said.

Marla Dahl, the manager of the housing complex who now lives on site, said she had quit her previous job to care for a terminally ill relative, who later passed away. She started her new job in Ashland on Dec. 1.

"I really feel like I won the lottery of jobs," Dahl said, as she showed off the community center, a one-level apartment and a two-level townhouse.

The community center has a kitchen, and will soon have a computer lab. There will be classes on money management, resumé writing, earning a high school GED and enrolling for college. Kids will have after-school activities, Dahl said.

The living units, while snug, have vinyl flooring meant to look like hardwood flooring, washers and dryers for laundry and dishwashers.

Some two-bedroom units are left, and the Housing Authority is taking applications from people who want to get on a waiting list for one and three-bedroom units, Elzy said.

Applicants must meet maximum annual income guidelines. One person can earn up to $19,250; two people can earn $22,000; three people can earn $24,750 and four people can earn a maximum of $27,500.

Among other requirements, applicants must have positive credit and criminal records, and have at least one year of favorable landlord references if they have a rental history.

For more application information, call 541-779-5785 ext. 1000 or visit the complex's community center at 2261 Villard St., located off of lower Clay Street.

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