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Workforce Housing Development Gains Site Plan Approval

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

The developers of Belle Rivers, a new workforce housing development, have successfully made it over their first hurdle to become a reality.

On Monday, the Oxford Planning Commission approved the site plan for the 46-unit neighborhood aimed at providing affordable housing to those who earn less than 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $43,000 in Lafayette County.
Belle Rivers will consist of 48 units as attached duplexes on 9 acres off Slack and Vaughn Roads, just east of the Kroger shopping center.

A rendering of what the Belle Rivers development will look like. Photo courtesy of EB Engineering & Architecture.

The homes will be 1,400-square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half baths with two-car garages. Construction is expected to start this fall with lease sign-up in the summer of 2019. The leases are renewed annually and rent is expected to be about $689 a month.
In 2034, tenants living in the developments will have the option to purchase the home. Their rent payments will be deducted from the sale price. For example, if a tenant has lived in the unit for 15 years, they will have paid $126,000 in rent. That amount will be applied to the purchase price that will be determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“It’s conceivable that someone who has lived there for the full 15 years will pay zero dollars for their home,” said developer Stewart Rutledge Monday.
After residents have been offered the units, those units not purchased will then be put up for sale to the general public and will no longer be restricted to income levels.
The developments were made possible after the public-private partnership between LOU-Home and Rutledge was awarded $15 million in housing credits last year in competitive funding.
A home in Murphey Lane

Rutledge built a similar development in Holly Springs, called Murphy Lane which is a 36-unit development that offers affordable housing to seniors and residents with disabilities.
“It is the most bipartisan, most effective way to provide affordable housing in the nation,” Rutledge told the commission Monday. “We appreciate the support we’ve received from Oxford.”
City Planner Judy Daniel told the Planning Commission Monday that Belle Rivers would be eligible for recently approved incentives for developers of affordable housing that include the reduction of permit fees, help with tree mitigation and reduction of Oxford’s higher standards for stormwater runoff to meet MDEQ standards.
Commissioner Duncan Gray asked if the tree mitigation incentive meant that developers would not be required to plant trees.
Daniel explained that it’s possible a development meeting the standards of affordable housing could possibly get help from the city’s tree mitigation funds to plant trees, but not be released from having to meet the city’s requirements for canopy coverage and trees on site.
“For example, if they were providing green space, like a park in the developments, we might be able to use some of those tree mitigation funds to plant trees, which helps reduce the cost for the developer,” Daniel said.
The site plan was approved unanimously by the commission with some additional conditions that include deeding the roads to the city before getting a certificate of occupancy and the finalization of stormwater runoff and water and sewer plans.
In other business Monday, the commission:
* Approved a variance request for the Estate of Mike Overstreet Properties that requires at least two new parking spaces be constructed with impervious coverage
* Denied a height variance request for a building at 1000 Jefferson Ave. with a 4 to 3 vote 
* Approved an amended site plan for The Archive development with special conditions that include removing an addition, unapproved curb cut and the reconstruction of the fire access lane along Oxford Way to the previously approved grass pavers
* Approved the final plat for lots 101, 103, 104 in the Grand Oaks subdivision, phase 5 on Majestic Oaks Drive
* Approved a request for a special exception and the site plan for a self-storage facility on Thacker Road
* Approved granting city utilities for Wellington Place in Lafayette County
* Approved granting city utilities for The Evergreens subdivision in Lafayette County

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