Possible funding sources for the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund will be discussed at the Ashland City Council study session Monday.
A lack of available and affordable housing in Ashland continues to be a key issue both in the city’s two-year budget being developed now and in testimony presented to the City Council by the city’s own housing commission.
The fund, established in 2008, has not had additional revenue added since the initial allocation. It currently has a balance of $166,000 available. The council is deliberating on how it might create dedicated money for the fund and how that money might best be allocated.
As of now the Housing Commission has requested access to city funding, but the council has not yet developed a strategy for the commission to use the money. It’s likely this will also be a part of the discussion.
In a news release co-authored by Rich Rohde of the Housing Commission and Evan Lasley of Oregon’s labor organization, the AFL-CIO, the groups claim the city’s failure to act will hurt families in Ashland. “Working families in Ashland are being displaced due to a lack of workforce housing. They need action, not just a commitment to explore possibilities. Our community has waited a long time for this study session, and we are glad that the city is moving forward — but we can’t wait forever for city leaders to take the steps needed to fund our Housing Trust Fund," said Lasley.
The fund can be leveraged to obtain more money, according to the groups. They claim on average, for every dollar that a city puts into an AHTF, $6.50 is matched by outside funding sources both from private donors and public agencies. “There are currently no dedicated revenues sources for AHTF, meaning projects that could potentially alleviate Ashland’s housing crisis cannot go forward at this time,” said Lasley.
Also on the agenda is a discussion on use of Pioneer Hall as a winter and emergency shelter for the homeless. Questions include whether there's a better location available, the difficulty of finding volunteers to staff the shelter, and whether the city wants to renew its contract with Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland to run the emergency shelter.
The study session starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Siskiyou Room at the Ashland Community Development Building, 51 Winburn Way. Study sessions are webcast at www.ustream.tv/channel/city-of-ashland-oregon.
The council on Tuesday at their regular business meeting is also expected to finalize a move they made on May 2 restoring much of a grant to the Ashland Community Resource center which works with the city’s poor and homeless by providing access to housing, job services and other essential services. At their annual social service grant allocation the council had taken ACRC from a recommended grant of $40,000 to $4,000. On May 2 Councilor Stefani Seffinger made a motion to re-consider the cut back and restore more funding. Her motion prevailed and city staffers were directed to find an additional $22,000 for ACRC which is to be finalized on Tuesday.
Additionally the council will consider adding two new items under the Enhanced Law Enforcement Area which requires a court appearance for which a failure to appear would bring a default judgement or criminal prosecution. The ELEA is generally the area in downtown Ashland. Added to the list of things you can’t do is have a dog without the license required or smoke marijuana in public. These things are already subject to citation but if done in the enhanced area carry the possibility of a stronger penalty. Councilors will also receive the annual report from the police department on use of force and the jail bed rental program which was implemented last year.
Also on Tuesday, the City Council will by proclamation declare Ashland an International City of Peace, which encourages city and community leaders to work with concerned citizens to develop policies and procedures that promote a culture of peace in the region.
The proclamation was requested by the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission in order to solidify the city’s role to “provide inspiration for all citizens to create an emerging, evolving, living model for thriving together as fellow humans.”
The council will meet in its regular business meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1175 East Main St.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.