Ashland city leaders are doing what they can to encourage more affordable housing by changing development rules to allow smaller homes on more kinds of property. In the reality of the Ashland market, that means a 600-square-foot home for $229,000 is considered affordable.

That's not a criticism of the City Council, or of the developers. Its merely a statement of the new normal in Ashland real estate.

The first phase of Verde Village, at Nevada and Helman streets near the dog park, featured small homes called cottages, starting at $229,000. The second phase is nearing the start of construction. It will feature larger homes, from 1,200 to 2,400 square feet, with the larger ones priced from the high $400,000s to the high $600,000s.

That's more like what Ashland buyers have become accustomed to. The median (half above, half below) sale price for Ashland homes in the third quarter was $440,000.

The lowest-priced homes in Verde Village might be considered "workforce housing," but just barely. What drives Ashland prices, the developers say, is the price of land. So the smaller the lot and the smaller the house, the lower the price can be. Laz Ayala, one of the partners in Verde Village, is working on a project on East Main Street, where homes will be 500, 750, 1,000 and 1,300 square feet.

Ashland made the community decision a long time ago to forgo expanding its boundaries. Until that changes, an affordable house, at least in Ashland, means a small house.