Housing study possible for Oxford

By Kelsey Kimbler - For The Register-Herald

OXFORD –What types of affordable housing does the City of Oxford need?

That question was the focus of a presentation by council member Steve Dana during a Tuesday, Oct. 18, meeting.

The presentation continued a discussion regarding the potential for a housing study to be completed in Oxford. The topic was broached during a Sept. 21 council meeting at which Coe Potter, a local real estate agent, spoke on the issue of affordable housing in the city. He asked council to consider employing a professional consultant to find the “gap” in affordable housing.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.”

HUD goes on to state, “a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.”

This is how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines technical affordable housing: housing which does not take up the entirety of a minimum wage paycheck.

According to the presentation, there is a perceived lack of this type of housing in Oxford. A simple search will help one find three different places for low-income housing in the city: Indian Trace Apartments, Talaford Manor and Parkview Arms.

These types of complexes have long waiting lists.

When addressing council, Potter said he once had to find affordable housing for a family to complete a project – it was not an easy feat.

Housing for different income levels is another issue in Oxford, and the reasoning behind requesting a housing study.

If the issue was simply “affordable housing” realtors could work to rectify the gap, but the question Potter asked was, what “gap” should they be trying to fill?

Is “affordable housing” the largest housing gap in the city? Or do other income ranges struggle, whether it be middle-class, starting professors, low-income college students, retirees, or others in “gaps?”

The hope is, by completing a housing study, city officials could locate what housing gap needs to be filled so all income ranges can easily afford housing in Oxford.

Many professionals commute to Oxford instead of living in the city, and that is also an issue council would like to fix.

Dana gave his presentation due to the overwhelming request at nearly every meeting. He shared, “affordable housing” is something the community is focused on, but added, “Housing needs at every level should be explored. So that you can see the term ‘affordable’ unpacked and see the need for housing at various income levels.”

He summarized, “The overall point of the study is to go beyond opinions, and see where the data leads us. To see the picture the data paints.”

Community Development Director Jung-Han Chen added, there are funds the city might be able to tap into to pay for this study.

There is an Oxford Housing Trust fund of roughly $5,600 which council allocated six or seven years ago. Currently, the funds would not be applicable to a project like a housing study, but the Housing Advisory Commission has notified Chen that with approval, the terms on these funds can be amended. A meeting to do so has been planned for the immediate future.

Council decided to perform a “voice vote” to signal to the commission these funds and this study are two things Oxford City Council believes the community can benefit from. The motion passed with all “yes” votes.

No plans are yet in place for the study, as council awaits the approval of the funds from OHT.

By Kelsey Kimbler

For The Register-Herald