Not all agree on housing report data

In forecasting Medford's housing needs 20 years out, officials don't agree what the future will look like.

A recently released draft document of the housing needs analysis predicts 68 percent of the housing needed will be single-family housing (freestanding houses), and 32 percent will be multifamily housing, such as apartments, condominiums and townhouses. But some officials say the assessment assumes too many high-end houses and not enough multifamily housing.

In its comments submitted to the city May 8, the Housing and Community Development Commission said the projected price ranges and rental levels don't correspond with the financial capabilities of the majority of Medford households.

"Discussion focused on the number of households that make less than the median family income and the need for more multifamily housing within the city limits. The historical split of 68 percent single-family housing to 32 percent multifamily does not seem in keeping with the 2006 tenure of 55 percent owner-occupied to 45 percent renter-occupied."

The city is taking public comment through Tuesday on a draft housing needs document that concludes there is not enough vacant land in the urban growth boundary to meet residential needs.

The city is looking at expanding its urban growth boundary, and a housing needs analysis is a requirement before beginning the process.

The housing needs element of the city's comprehensive plan was last updated 10 years ago, said Dan Moore, Medford city planner. The city in October hired Bob Parker, a consultant with EcoNorthwest of Eugene, to examine the current housing capacity in the urban growth boundary, and use housing trends and demographics to predict future housing needs.

The purpose of the analysis is to see whether Medford's UGB includes enough vacant land to meet residential needs, said Moore, and it shows the city has a deficit in land for low-density single-family dwellings (urban residential), townhouses (urban medium-density residential) and apartments (urban high-density residential).

Medford needs more than 15,000 new dwelling units in the next 20 years, according to the document. It says Medford's current UGB has 2,318 acres of vacant and partially vacant residential land, but would need to bring in 1,400 acres to accommodate the residential needs.

Gary Stine, a member of the Housing Needs Analysis Subcommittee, also voiced concerned that the report wasn't realistic about the need for more inexpensive housing between now and 2028.

"The report shows that 60 percent of Medford residents earn less than $50,000 per year, which in most cases will not allow them to buy a new home," he wrote in his comments to the city.

Lenore Drake, chairwoman of the Housing and Community Development Commission, wrote that with the increase in the Hispanic population, single-parent households and renter households, the city should plan for a higher percentage of affordable/workforce housing.

"According to the census in 2000, 28 percent of Medford households experienced housing cost burden (more than 30 percent of their income for housing). In 2006, the figure was 47 percent (a 19-percent increase). This will no doubt continue to trend upward since housing costs doubled between 2000 and 2006, far outpacing income growth (about 12 percent over the same period)."

Merry Hart and Cindy Dyer of ACCESS Inc., the valley's main emergency food supplier, submitted comments Thursday also referring to those figures.

"The city's focus should be to attempt to encourage development of units to address their residents' needs before focusing on the potential influx of 'wealthy immigrants' per a state forecast."

They wrote that another reason to designate more land for higher-density housing is because it's a more prudent use of resources.

But Medford City Councilman Jim Kuntz supports retaining the 68/32 split.

"The housing split is good because it's based on what's actually happened," he said. He said some officials are requesting a split more like 60/40 in an effort to increase density.

"The market doesn't work on wishes and dreams," he said. "People are going to buy what they want to buy and live where they want to live. They think Medford should have a higher density. Let's be realistic about things. That's not the way you plan out a city, based on hopes and dreams."

He said it would be better to err on the side of bringing in too much land into city limits rather than not enough.

"If we constrict the amount of land brought in the city we're going to jack up the price of vacant land, we make it hard to do business," he said.

He said there will be higher-density housing downtown, but you can't force it on places, such as the hills of east Medford.

After the comments are in, the Planning Commission and City Council will review the document.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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