Ashland City Council addresses affordable housing trust fund

Ashland, Ore. — The city of Ashland is trying to decide how to pay for a fund to help the community meet the housing needs of the low income, retirees and young families.

The city has what’s called an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, but without a steady stream of funding it has yet to be used.

“With a one percent vacancy rate, we’re just like everybody else,” Ashland Resident Susan Berryhill said.

Susan Berryhill and her husband have lived in Ashland for the past 40 years.

But after a disastrous accident from a forest fire two years ago, they became renters overnight.

“Our house was filled with smoke and so we couldn’t live there. We went to our insurance company for help and they wouldn’t help us,” Berryhill said.

Now the Berryhills have been moving from place to place in a series of short-term rentals.

“We wonder if we can stay here ourselves,” Berryhill said.

But the Berryhills know they are not alone.

That’s why they’re hoping something can be done with the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The trust fund is money dedicated from the community to affordable housing purposes.

“Housing trust funds are established in about 500 U.S. cities right now and they’ve been so widespread because they work,” Southern Oregon Housing For All Volunteer John Nosco said.

The city of Ashland already has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund that was created back in 2008, but John Nosco with Southern Oregon Housing For All says the city still needs to allocate steady funding sources which is why city council addressed the fund in Monday’s work session.

“We wanted to know what are some of the different ways that we could use that money and also how to we find money to put into affordable housing,” City Council Chair Steffani Seffinger said.

City councilor Steffani Seffinger says many steps need to be done before using the Affordable Housing Trust Fund like looking for partners to help with funding, as well as addressing both short and long-term desires.

“If you don’t use it right away and you build up the money, then maybe you can do bigger, long-term projects,” Seffinger said.

Berryhill simply hopes the process happens sooner rather than later.

“As a citizen I’m wanting to see more creativity and more action to really make something happen,” Berryhill said.

The council plans to continue discussion on the trust fund in the next couple of months.

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