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Medford Seeks To Tackle ‘Rent Burden’

Liam Moriarty/JPR News
People gather in small breakout groups to discuss high housing costs at a community meeting held at the Medford Public Library Tuesday evening.

Rising housing costs and lingering effects of the Great Recession are making it increasingly hard for many people to find an affordable place to live. Officials in Medford held a community meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the problem and possible solutions. 

Ideally, housing should cost no more than 30 percent of your income. In Jackson County, one out of three renters is spending more than half their income on rent. If you have a minimum wage job, you’d need to work 65 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

James Raison, with the Medford-based social service non-profit Access, says statistics like these point to a harsh reality for many people.

"We get calls every single week," he said. "Y’know, 'My landlord’s raising the rent, there’s no way I’m going to be able to pay for it.' We get dozens of calls every week, so it’s happening all the time."

Jason Elzy heads the Housing Authority of Jackson County. He says skyrocketing construction costs are the biggest factor making housing less affordable .

"We just had a bid opening two weeks ago for a 50-plex.," he said. "And we saw numbers come in at one-hundred-80 dollars a square foot to develop. That’s unheard-of."

Stagnating wages, a shortage of skilled construction workers and tightened lending regulations are among the many contributing factors.

Local and state officials are coming up with approaches to tackle the problem, from encouraging more mother-in-law units to tiny house villages to help homeless people get off the street. 

Liam Moriarty has been covering news in the Pacific Northwest for three decades. He served two stints as JPR News Director and retired full-time from JPR at the end of 2021. Liam now edits and curates the news on JPR's website and digital platforms.