Affordable housing project approved near downtown Medford
The proposed 115-unit complex would begin to address a chronic housing shortage in the region that was made worse by the 2020 wildfires in the Rogue Valley.
The Medford Urban Renewal Agency approved financing for the new development to bring more affordable housing to the city's Liberty Park neighborhood.
The Rogue Valley faced housing shortages even before the Almeda and South Obenchain fires of 2020. More than 2,300 units were lost in the fires tightening access to affordable housing.
“This is a regional issue. This is not simply what happened in Talent and Phoenix. They bore the brunt of the destruction itself," says Harry Weiss, the agency's director. "But being able to house all these people is something that we have to accommodate within the entire Rogue Valley.”
He says the agency was lucky to find three plots of land up for sale, big enough for a large apartment complex.
“The truth is, finding sites to do multi-family housing in the center-city is a hard prospect, mainly because you need a certain amount of land," says Weiss. "Land is so parcelized in our center-city that it’s hard to assemble property where you can do a significant amount of multi-family.”
Daniel Bunn is the president of Medford-based Rubicon investments, one of the developers chosen for the project.
“Different parts of the state, different economic brackets, different cultural groups need different types of housing," Bunn says. "We’re really focusing in the design phase on making sure not only that the housing is ultimately affordable, but that it’s meeting the needs of the community that we’re targeting.”
Bunn says they’ve already gotten community feedback, such as a greater need for family housing, community kitchen space and play areas for children. He says the group is especially focused on addressing the needs of the Latinx community.
Rubicon investments is teaming up with Portland-based Edlen & Co. on the project. Bunn says this is the first time his company has worked on an affordable housing project, whereas Edlen & Co. has prior experience in this space.
He says Rubicon's history of working on government projects will help the team get through the red tape that comes with financing low-income housing.
The expected $48 million for construction will be raised primarily through state and federal low-income housing grants, with approximately $5 million coming from the City of Medford.
Applications for the state grants are due in April, with awards expected in August, Bunn says. If the project is approved for state funds, the federal money is included.
Construction could finish by the end of 2024.
And this isn't the only project in the works. Weiss says the agency is also working on another proposed 62-unit complex in downtown. This other property wouldn't be low-income, but would be targeted towards "workforce housing" for middle-income individuals.
He says this middle section of housing, designed for those who make 80-120% of the region's median income, is a challenging type of project, since units don't benefit from low-income subsidies, nor do they generate as much revenue as high-end apartments.
Weiss says all of these initiatives are about bringing more people into downtown to create a more vibrant Medford.
"People living in downtown is like the third leg of a stable stool of downtown," Weiss says. "You have commerce and you have institutional presences and you have cultural presences and then you have people living there."