Workforce housing plans moving forward

Published 5:00 am Monday, November 13, 2017

Plans for two new local workforce housing developments are moving along, according to developers, and more could be coming as part of one developer’s master plan for property south of Oxford High School adjacent to the proposed Sisk Avenue extension.

A public-private partnership was awarded $15,000,000 in housing credits earlier this year in competitive funding to construct 96 new townhouses, which will be reserved exclusively for the area’s workforce community.

LOU-Home, Inc., 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. The total investment into the community is ultimately expected to approach $20 million.

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Funding for these homes is centered on two primary locations. The first community, lead by LOU-Home, to be named Belle Rivers, will be located on currently undeveloped land a couple hundred yards east of Riverside Apartments.

The second community, to be named Eastover, will be located just south of the new Oxford High School and Oxford Commons near the Sisk Avenue Extension currently under development.

Site plan approvals with the city and county are expected to occur in the next couple of months with construction beginning in early Spring 2018. The homes are estimated to be ready for occupancy by early 2019.

Part of a bigger plan

Eastover will be part of a larger master plan being proposed by local developer Jed Morris, and it will represent one component of Morris’s work to increase connectivity and access to the Sisk Avenue Extension.

“I am a long time north Mississippian, and, like many locals, I’ve watched the economy grow and shrink over the years,” Morris said. “But, Oxford and Lafayette County have clearly reached a point where growth is inevitable, and we are fortunate enough to have property that is in an ideal spot to complement Oxford Commons, the new high school, and, now Sisk Avenue’s extension project.”

The proposed development, located on 175 acres of land, consists of commercial, civic and a variety of residential properties including the Eastover development.

“We are proud to be host to a major component of the product … for the working people of this county in Eastover,” which will bring about $8 million in workforce and affordable housing new construction to the area,” Morris said. “Further, as our property stretches from the new high school all the way south to Brittany Estates Apartments, this opportunity will create an excellent transition from that project to these new construction communities which then creates a seamless transition to other elements of our plan. Transitioning from difficult projects is a tough obstacle, and we certainly can’t take the credit for this perfect fit.  That credit certainly goes to your county and city leaders who have worked tirelessly to address the area’s workforce and affordable housing crisis.  But, we are thrilled to be part of the solution with our vision.”

Belle Rivers and Eastover will be designed and engineered by Oxford Architect and Engineer Ross Barkley of Eley Barkley Engineering & Architecture in conjunction with local designer Erin Austen Abbott. Construction will be completed by Oxford General Contractor Winters Construction.

“The city and county are in a state of flux right now with the city implementing comprehensive rezoning while the county is pursuing its initial zoning ordinances, but both jurisdictions have been working diligently with us to ensure that we are able to navigate the unusual obstacles a situation like that would normally create,” Barkley said. “They realize that this is a once in a decade type of opportunity, and they are committed to getting these homes built with no delay.”

One of the developers of Eastover and Belle Rivers, Stewart Rutledge, said that the success of these efforts thus far has even attracted the attention of other workforce and affordable housing advocates.

One possible new entrant to the area’s workforce and affordable housing efforts, according to Rutledge, is non-profit United Church Homes of Marion, Ohio, which owns or manages communities in 13 states. UCH leaders have stated the organization is considering building 24 to 48 new homes to serve the community as part of Jed Morris’s master plan.