By Alyssa Schnugg
Oxford’s newest group to take on the colossal issue of affordable housing met for the first time Wednesday.
The Oxford Housing Commission is made up of 13 local residents from Oxford, Lafayette and the University of Mississippi. Many have worked in housing-related fields as a career or through volunteer work.
The commission was formed in February by Mayor Robyn Tannehill who attended the early part of Wednesday’s meeting to thank the committee members for agreeing to serve on the commission.
“We know there’s no magic wand,” Tannehill told the commission. “If there was, we would have waved it. But we know the people sitting around this table have unique experiences, unique backgrounds and a passion for helping to find a solution.”
Senior Associate Planner Judy Daniel led the first meeting that was held at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center.
Oxford Alderman Janice Antonow is one of the 13 commission members. She said a similar committee was formed in 1997 when the city was working on its Comprehensive Plan, Vision 2020.
“Their report was depressing,” she said. “But I think now I know why. They were looking for one solution that would fix it all and there is no ‘one size fits all’ with this.”
Daniel said talks about affordable, workplace housing picked up a couple of years ago when the city started working on its update Comp Plan, Vision 2037.
“Within that plan is an extensive portion about housing,” she said. “Oxford does face unique issues – there is a multitude of issues and many blessings.”
Daniel said the University is one of those “blessing” to Oxford, however, it also creates some unique housing problems for the city – from alumni buying second homes that remain empty for several months at a time to large, student housing duplexes that are rented by the bedroom. The Oxford housing market is heavily influenced by growth, or decline, at the University, Daniel said.
Since 2015 when research started for the Vision 2037 plan, households earning below the area median income have gone up significantly. The number of households earning $35,000 to $100,000 has gone up somewhat and the number of households making more than $100,000 a year has gone down.
The commission voted to approve the group’s Intent and Mission Statement which reads, “The intent of this Committee is to recommend options that may be enacted by the city of Oxford, Lafayette County and the University of Mississippi, housing developers and non-profit organizations to further the expansion of housing options affordable to those at the moderate and low-spectrum of income levels.”
The commission will form four to five committees that will be opened to community members to serve on that will cover housing needs for those about 80 percent of the area’s average income, which is about $44,000 a year; housing needs for those earning below 80 percent; housing needs for those with little or no income; economic/data; and other issues that might include substandard housing, student housing and state legislation.
A kick-off event will be held in the next two months where community members can sign up to be a part of the subcommittees; however, a date has not yet been set.