According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, approximately 31 percent of households are made up of renters who earn a mean wage of $10.64 per hour.
That means, in Mississippi towns like Oxford, renters have to work 78 hours every week to afford a fair-market rent of $732 per month for two-bedroom housing.
Upon hearing these facts, Oxford resident James Farris was shocked.
“I didn’t realize there was such a deficit in the housing community,” he said. “There needs to be something done about this…but clearly the solution isn’t that easy.”
More affordable housing could be in Oxford’s future. City officials recently discussed the possibility of creating an affordable housing development in the city, and the topics is an ongoing discussion.
In the second of a series on affordable housing, we asked Oxford students and residents their thoughts about the issue.
At a recent Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting, Fred Laurenzo, co-creator of the nonprofit organization LOU-Homes, proposed the creation of 10 affordable housing units off Molly Bar Road in the Oxford Creek area.
During the meeting, Laurenzo cited a growing need for such a community due to the overwhelming amount of people relocating to Oxford.
According to SuburbanStats.org, a website that lists current demographics, statistics and information on every U.S. city, Oxford’s population is nearly 20,000 and growing.
Oxford resident and student Peyton Folkes was not happy about the proposed affordable housing development plans.
“Oxford is a community of students and families that thrive and grow together,” she said. “Low-income housing, time after time, brings in negative impacts to the community. Some of these negative impacts include lowering property values and unwanted crime.”
“Affordable housing” is a term that includes a variety of government-subsidized programs for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities, aimed at helping them find places they can afford to live, according to realtor.com. This includes Section 8 housing, government public housing, and affordable housing built by private developers who have the incentive of government tax credits.
New York Unversity’s Furman Center works to advance research and debate on housing, neighborhoods and urban development. According to a Furman Center report, a vast majority of studies have found that affordable housing does not depress neighboring property values, and may even raise them in some cases.
“Overall, the research suggests that neighbors should have little to fear from the type of attractive and modestly sized developments that constitute the bulk of newly produced affordable housing today,” the report reads.
Concordia Hotard, a UM graduate student who lives in Oxford Creek, believes an affordable housing development would have an adverse affect on the neighborhood.
“The proposed plan for low-income housing will take away much of the beauty in Oxford Creek,” she said. “Many of the neighbors have expressed concern over this development getting the approval it seeks.”
Some Oxford residents like Laura Taylor actively support the idea of affordable housing.
“The ratio of people to houses is overwhelming in Oxford,” Taylor said. “The residents of Oxford need more options at a better cost.”
People like Fred Laurenzo, co-creator of LOU-Homes, are trying to make those changes. According to the website, the mission of LOU-Homes is to collaborate with governments, businesses, organizations and citizens to increase the availability and affordability of quality houses for all citizens within the Lafayette-Oxford-University community, and provide support and encouragement for successful ownership of these homes.
Finding affordable housing solutions is part of the Oxford Board of Aldermen’s Vision 2020 plan created in 1993 around six core principles of urban design for future growth.
UM student Christian Gambel also believes there is a great need for more low-income housing in Oxford.
“Often these houses get labeled as projects or slums, but the truth is, these are blue collar Americans struggling in our cities to find places to live,” Gambrel said. “Oxford has a duty to these citizens to help them access places to live at an affordable rate, and if that means building more houses and communities, then that is what needs to be done.”
Gambel believes the topic of affordable or low-income housing is ongoing and will continue to be an issue until changes are made for the better in the community.