One of the greatest challenges we are facing as a community is addressing the needs of our changing demographic of singles, professionals, college students, seniors, and the like, who are in need of smaller dwellings. A family of two may not need a three or four bedroom house on a quarter acre, which most houses in Medford are zoned for. These large homes may be too much space for a growing population of people who need smaller and more manageable accommodations.
According to the Medford Chamber of Commerce, growth trends indicate that in 2016 we had a population of 216,527 in Jackson County and 79,805 specifically in Medford.* As we continue to grow and our community becomes a more dense population, we must address the lack of available and affordable housing.
The latest Jackson County residential statistics indicate sale prices on housing is up 9.5% in Jackson County and Medford: +4.8% NW, +1.7% West, +6.2% SW, and +10.6% in East Medford over last year.** In addition, housing rentals per month for a three bedroom apartment typically costs $600-$950 and for a three bedroom house $900-$1500.
I recently spoke with City council member Kevin Stine (who recently announced his candidacy for Oregon State Senate), agreed that, “If we had 10,000 more homes, it would likely put us in a much better position.” Zoning through the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary) is going through the last approval since its last update in 1993. Kevin Stine noted that the UGB only allows for so much zoning within specifically allocated areas. SB100 is a land use law from 1973 that still operates today with “conservation” as the idea behind it, “So people wouldn’t build everything everywhere and to keep scenic beauty and farm land. We are stuck with a constrained land with a 20-year supply around us. The concept is fine, but living within the constrained land supply, we suffer the consequences of lack of housing, especially low income housing.”
In the interim, the city is focused on addressing blighted and vacant homes. The city can sometimes receive over 100 calls for service/year on some homes. These are homes that are often in dilapidated states, out of code, or have criminal activity. The receivership program is a process in which property owners will receive a notice if they are in violation of code. Most property owners voluntarily comply, but for others, the city Council has the ability to name a receiver, such as Habitat for Humanity, ACCESS, or other non-profit organizations to rehabilitate the home. The City doesn’t want to have to do it with any home, and has not yet, but it is a tool that can be used that can get homes back on the market.