The Medford Urban Renewal Agency has approved funding for the new development to bring more affordable housing to the city’s Liberty Park area.
Rogue Valley was facing housing shortages even before the Almeda and South Obenchain fires in 2020. More than 2,300 units were lost in the fires which restricted access to affordable housing.
“It’s a regional problem. That’s not just what happened in Talent and Phoenix. They bore the brunt of the destruction itself,” says agency director Harry Weiss. “But being able to house all of these people is something we need to accommodate throughout Rogue Valley.
He says the agency was lucky to find three lots for sale, large enough for a large apartment complex.
“The truth is, finding sites to build multi-family housing in the city center is a tough prospect, mostly because you need a certain amount of land,” Weiss says. “The land is so fragmented in our downtown that it’s difficult to put together a property where you can do a significant amount of multi-family housing.
Daniel Bunn is the chairman 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 really focus in the design phase to make sure that not only is the housing ultimately affordable, but that it meets the needs of the community we are targeting.
Bunn says they have already received feedback from the community, such as a greater need for married quarters, community kitchen spaces and play areas for children. He says the group is particularly focused on the needs of the Latinx community.
Rubicon Investments is partnering with Portland-based Edlen & Co. on the project. Bunn says this is the first time his company has worked on an affordable housing project, while Edlen & Co. has previous experience in this area.
He says Rubicon’s history of working on government projects will help the team navigate the red tape of low-income housing finance.
The $48 million planned for construction will be raised primarily through state and federal low-income housing grants, including about $5 million from the city of Medford.
Applications for state grants are due in April, with awards expected in August, Bunn says. If the project is approved for state funds, federal money is included.
Construction could be completed by the end of 2024.
And this is not the only project in progress. Weiss says the agency is also working on another 62-unit downtown complex project. This other property would not be low income, but would be for “workforce housing” for middle income people.
He says this midsection of housing, designed for those earning 80-120% of the region’s median income, is a difficult type of project because the units don’t receive low-income subsidies and don’t generate as much revenue. than high-end apartments.
Weiss says all of these initiatives are aimed at bringing more people downtown to create a more vibrant Medford.
“People who live downtown are like the third leg of a stable downtown stool,” Weiss said. “You have commerce and you have institutional presences and you have cultural presences and then you have people living there.”