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Workforce Housing Filling Up Quickly; More on the Horizon

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

One of two “workforce housing” developments spearheaded by Steward Rutledge and LOU-Home has been filled up with new residents and a second development is filling up quickly.

The Belle Rivers development, located off Slack Road east of Kroger, is now 100 percent occupied, according to Rutledge who presented an update on the two developments to the Oxford Board of Aldermen Tuesday evening during their regular meeting.

“It has leased up as fast as any community I’ve ever heard in the nation,” Rutledge said.

It took about seven weeks to fill up the 48 units inside the development, compared to a national average of three to four months to fill up a housing development the size of Belle Rivers.

“That speaks to not only the success but the corroboration of need,” Rutledge said. “People aren’t just wanting this, they’re desperate for it.”

Rutledge said about $22.5 million has been invested in the projects with another $10 million “on deck.”

“Those are private dollars,” Rutledge said. “That’s a big deal, to bring in private dollars for affordable housing projects, which is generally harder to make work. The need is still there and the conversation should keep going.”

The second development, Eastover, still has units available. It’s located just south of Oxford High School near the F.D. Buddy East Parkway.

The second phase of Belle Rivers is in the works and will provide an additional 46 units and will be built, if approved, adjacent to the existing Belle Rivers development. The site plan is expected to be reviewed by the Planning Commission in the next few weeks.

Alderman Preston Taylor said he’s spoken to several of the new residents at Belle River since they’ve moved in.

“They’re very happy,” he said.

The developments, positioned to provide workforce housing to Oxonians, 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.

LOU-Home, a private housing advocacy nonprofit, is one of the lead developers of the planned communities, and its proposal overcame funding gaps by layering traditional bank lending with the federal housing tax credits.

Belle Rivers during construction this fall.
Photo by Talbert Toole.

Each development has 48 units, most of which are townhouses with four adjoining residences per building.

The homes are about 1,400-square feet with three bedrooms and two and a half baths with two-car garages. Each community has a shared community building.

The leases are renewed annually and rent is expected to be about $725 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.

After residents have been offered the units, those not sold will then be put up for sale to the general public and will no longer be restricted to income levels.

The units are available for people who make 60 percent of the area’s median income. In Lafayette County, the median income is currently $43,000.

Rutledge said the Board of Aldermen has “walked the walk” when it comes to taking action in helping to provide more affordable, workforce housing.

To help encourage more affordable housing options, last year the city approved a new policy that allows the Oxford Planning Department to offer several incentives to developers who present plans for affordable housing developments where 100 percent of their units are considered affordable housing for at least 15 years, up to $1,000 per bedroom in each category.

Incentives offered include waiting or reducing fees for the site review from the Planning Department, Building Department fees, tree mitigation fees, sewer connection fees, water connection fees and stormwater and other utility requirements considered with value established by estimates performed by the developer with approval by city staff.

“Keep ’em coming,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill told Rutledge after thanking him for his investment in the Oxford community.

For more information or to apply for one of the units at Eastover visit https://www.eastoveroxford.com/.

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