Medford struggles to keep up with affordable housing demand after wildfire

By April Ehrlich (Jefferson Public Radio)
Jan. 19, 2021 2 p.m.

Many victims of the Almeda Fire are now looking for housing in Medford. But the city was struggling with affordable housing even before the fire.

The Almeda Fire destroyed 2,400 homes in September, mostly in the small cities of Talent and Phoenix. About 75 percent of them were manufactured homes, according to a report presented to the Medford City Council Thursday night.

That means a lot of low-income seniors and families are looking for affordable homes in and around Medford. But the city was already struggling with housing availability before the fire.


Councilors met Thursday for a study session to discuss potential solutions. Since it was a study session, the council didn’t take any action. The city is working with a consultant to analyze its current and future housing needs.

Rent signs near a mobile home park in Phoenix that was entirely destroyed by the Almeda Fire.

Rent signs near a mobile home park in Phoenix that was entirely destroyed by the Almeda Fire.

April Ehrlich

Deputy City Manager Kelly Madding says Medford needs to focus on ways it could entice developers to build more affordable homes.

“The housing that is being produced for middle-income people or lower, slightly lower than middle-income people, we’re not doing much in that area,” she told councilors.

One idea was to issue a bond measure to fund housing initiatives. Another was to create a tax exemption for apartment developers.

A report prepared by city staff says housing continues to be costly, housing stock is low, and the median household income is about $48,000. The median sales price for a home as of November 2020 was $315,00, which is up 6 percent from the previous year. Rents have increased by 3.2 percent over the first six months of 2019.

Before the 2008 Great Recession, Medford was producing a high of 800 dwelling units a year; since then, it has averaged around 400 units a year. Meanwhile, incomes have increased slowly despite significant gains in employment. About 43 percent of Medford homeowners are cost-burdened, meaning they spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing. The situation is worse for renters, wherein 55 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.


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