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ALYSSA SCHNUGG: Renters need to be considered when talking about affordable housing

Sitting through dozens of discussions about the need for more affordable housing, or workforce housing, I often feel that a large part of Oxford’s population is overlooked.

Renters.

I don’t mean student housing — we have plenty of that.

I’m talking about those people who work at fast food restaurants or cut lawns or work as a receptionist somewhere. I’m talking about people who earn minimum wage or maybe $9 to $10 an hour — hard working people who are doing what they can to support a family.

Discussions have been had about the city annexing more property in the county, where less expensive homes can be built. However, even if a home costs $160,000, a person would need to make about $40,000 to afford the payments and then there is the down payment which is generally around $10,000 or more. Owning a home for a younger family is often a goal to work toward; however, they need a place to live before that happens.

And then there’s finding a bank willing to loan the money to a family who maybe had financial issues in the past and their credit is less than perfect.

I’ve heard people say “our teachers, our law enforcement, et cetera should be able to live in Oxford.” I agree with that and more affordable houses are needed for the group of people who may earn $40,000 a year or couples with double incomes.

We want our students from Ole Miss to stay in Oxford. When they graduate, at about 24-25 years old, they’re not ready to buy a house and are probably over living in student-geared housing. They need affordable rental properties.

Try to find an apartment in Oxford for less than $700 a month. Even at $700 a month, the options are limited.

The only “fix” is to give landlords some incentive to lower their rents. Perhaps a small tax credit if they provide 10 percent of their units below the average rental rates. Maybe a larger incentive if they build an entire development with nice, clean, rental units with reasonable rents. Maybe companies with aging student housing developments, who are being passed over for the newer fancy ones being built, could get some incentives to redesign and re-purpose the complex and rent by the apartment rather than the room and rent to young families or graduate students.

Owning a home is a dream for so many but it can be awhile before that’s accomplished. Discussions on affordable housing should include the workforce that serves us our coffee each morning on our way to work and the clerk at our favorite gas stations.

We need landlords willing to make $100 less a month even if it means we as a city have to offer something to them in return for doing so.

Alyssa Schnugg is Senior Writer at the Oxford Eagle. Email her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com