It takes many people to make the city of Oxford work as a whole, but some Oxford workers cannot afford to live here. In the third story of a series, we asked Oxford residents and college students their thoughts on the need for affordable housing in Oxford.
Sam Smallwood, a general business major and economics minor at the University of Mississippi, who is also a local real estate agent, said he believes it’s difficult to have affordable housing in Oxford because of the University of Mississippi.
“The price of real estate is so high, and investors have to charge more for rent to get a good return on their investment,” Smallwood said. “They know people (college students) are willing to pay it, which basically forces lower income workers to live in areas outside the city of Oxford.”
Smallwood said if there was more affordable housing in Oxford, he’d be able to serve a wider variety of clients, and more.
“A huge problem I have is people calling me looking for relatively cheap housing, which doesn’t seem to really exist in Oxford,” he said.
Smallwood believes Oxford residents have mixed feelings about affordable housing.
“Some people would welcome the new homes in order to help the people who help Oxford run,” he said, “but at the same time, many would be opposed, because it would drive their property values down.”
“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.
Harrison Lipscomb, a UM business management major, said he was unaware of affordable housing challenges in Oxford.
“I think most people just assume that if someone is working in Oxford, that they are from Oxford,” he said. “It is understandable why it is an issue, because property values are so high around here. But I don’t think longtime residents of Oxford would look forward to more affordable housing, because of its effect on property values.”
Lipscomb said some residents may believe that affordable housing will lower Oxford property values.
Alec Ossorio, a UM senior finance major, also didn’t realize lack of affordable housing was an issue.
“I know where the little low income housing that is in Oxford is,” he said, “but I didn’t realize how many people need more of these housing operations.”
Ossorio said balance is key.
“If you have too much (affordable housing), it may become an issue for the city,” he said. “Many people view affordable housing as unappealing. If we have too little affordable housing, we risk losing our day laborers and others who do menial jobs, but are vital to the everyday operation of Oxford.”
Ossorio said Oxford should consider affordable housing construction options.
“I think, for Oxford specifically, we need to build low income housing that doesn’t look like low income housing, which can be done,” he said. “I feel like Oxford residents aren’t too fond of affordable housing to begin with, and they will be hard to convince that it is needed, but building small neighborhoods instead of large complexes would also help with appealing to the locals.”