A local nonprofit is hoping to build a transitional housing project on two parcels of city-owned land that the city offered to sell to the Housing Authority of Jackson County (HAJC) three years ago.
The two tax lots at 380 Clay St. were offered to HAJC in 2015 to build as many as 20 affordable housing units across Villard Street from Snowberry Brook, a 60-unit low-income housing project built by HAJC in 2010.
The plan was postponed when a petition was submitted advocating for the preservation of a large cottonwood tree on the site. Two city commissions voted to deny the tree removal permit.
The city then revised its offer to sell 33,075 square feet of property for $268,238 which would allow 15 to 17 units and has been working on a partition plat that would allow preservation of the tree, which was once named city Tree of the Year.
A different nonprofit, sponsored by Eugene-based SquareOne Villages, announced Tuesday its offer to purchase and lease the same land to build transitional housing options for women and children in Ashland.
“Women and students are the most vulnerable population on the streets,” said Karen Logan, director of Ashland Tiny House Group, adding that there are currently no services for transitional housing for homeless students in Ashland.
“We want to provide the city another choice for transitional housing, in particular for women and children,” Logan said. “I don’t want to compete (with HJAC), but Ashland is a small town, and I think the more options the council has, the better.”
She said the Ashland Tiny House Group project will be a more valuable option to the city because the project will demolish the existing vacant house on the property and “the city will receive cash almost immediately.”
HAJC Director Jason Elzy said HAJC is ready to purchase the land per the city’s 2016 offer and was “surprised” to see the news reports from several TV stations on a new transitional housing project proposed at the same site.
“We’re working through the details to purchase the land,” Elzy said Wednesday, “So we were surprised to see the news report yesterday.”
HAJC Director of Development Ryan Haynes further said the city of Ashland hasn’t notified HAJC of any change of plans regarding the 2016 offer.
Snowberry Brook, which offers one-bedroom units at $505 per month and three-bedroom units for $685 per month to tenants with a gross income of no more than $20,500 for one person up to $36,300 for seven people, is up to its capacity and can no longer accept applications on its waitlist due to its current length.
City housing specialist Linda Reid said the land on Clay Street is desirable for many reasons, and it’s now up to the City Council to decide who it would sell the property to.
“We don’t have a lot of buildable land in Ashland, so that land is definitely desirable,” Reid said. “The city has a altruistic view where we make decisions based on public benefits, rather than for profits.”
The tiny house village project, a brainchild that Logan said she has developed over a year and a half, will build 12 to 15 tiny house units, varying from 8- by 12-foot up to 8- by 22-foot, in a fenced community. The village would share a kitchen, restrooms, laundry and a community center that will be monitored by two on-site staff, Logan said.
The tiny houses are said to be built in compliance with Oregon law for transitional housing, with a possibility to install solar panels system to provide electricity. The houses would be temporary shelter from 6 to 24 months for qualified participants, Logan said.
Logan, who said she has been in communication with the council and mayor, hopes to get a preliminary approval so that the project could qualify two city grants totaling up to $650,000.
Through benefactor Lloyd Matthew Haines, Logan said the project has $350,000 in funding to purchase 0.32 acre of the land, and she hopes the city will allow the project to lease the rest of the 1.1 acre property. But the organization will still need the grants to cover construction and infrastructure costs.
The two grants, Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) and Affordable Housing Trust Funds, are both due on Feb. 16.
Ashland Tiny House Group applied for CDBG last year but was rejected as the proposal wasn’t fully developed and unable to identify an adequate site for the project, Reid said.
The City Council is scheduled to meet Monday, Feb. 5, for a study session and Tuesday, Feb. 6, for a regular business meeting.
Logan said she will be asking for the council’s approval during the public forum at the beginning of the meeting. It's council policy not to respond directly to public comment, and public meetings law requires an item be on the agenda for the council to take action.
— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.