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Medford Moves Closer To Turning Motel Into Housing For Wildfire Survivors

Southern Oregon based nonprofit Rogue Retreat plans to convert a Medford motel into rental housing for victims of last summer’s wildfires. The question is whether they can afford the cost of turning motel units into apartments.

Project Turnkey is a state plan to buy motels to provide shelter for homeless people.

Rogue Retreat applied for funding to buy The Redwood Inn Motel in Medford and convert it into affordable housing. Project Turnkey will pay for the property purchase but not the renovations it would need.

Harry Weiss is the director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, the city department that‘s deciding whether to cover the renovation costs. He says that this is a chance for the city to turn struggling hotels into desperately needed housing.

“We already had a housing crisis before the Almeda fire," says Weiss. "So now you look at that and go, ‘well, where are the opportunities to quickly stand up rental housing?’ well, those conversions of motels, a lot of which suffered because of the COVID pandemic, become attractive opportunities to explore.”

Weiss says they’re still working out the feasibility of the renovation process and whether they can help fund it. He estimates the renovations will cost around a half million dollars.

“It becomes a question for us to say, ‘well, these are the resources that we have to work with, these are the other things we could spend the money on," said Weiss. "Because there’s way more things you can spend your money on than you have money to spend. So that will be a question of prioritization and saying this is a significant bang for the buck.”

Project Turnkey wants assurances that the city will cover the cost of renovation before it pays to buy the motel. Weiss hopes the state will provide part of that cash. That decision is expected to be made in the next two weeks.