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Belle Rivers to bring workforce housing to Oxford

More workforce housing is coming to Oxford, and with it are incentives for developers who take on such projects.

In the June 11 meeting of the Oxford Planning Commission, a special exception was granted to Ross Barkley of Eley Barkley Architects and Stewart Rutledge for the development of the Belle Rivers residential complex. Belle Rivers, which will be located near Kroger on nine acres between Slack Road and Vaughn Road, will be a first-of-its-kind project for Oxford, according to Barkley.

“Most people, when they hear ‘workforce housing,’ they recall something kind of less satisfying,” Barkley said. “However, by working with the city and having them be a very good advocate for this project, we’re providing a really nice development that’s going to provide accommodations for professionals and individuals of all types and ages.”

Belle Rivers will consist of 48 three-bedroom townhouses, and according to Barkley, it will be a critical asset to the community going forward.

The proposed development will be partially funded using Housing Tax Credits, which requires it to be rent and income restricted for a number of years. The Tax Credit program requires the development to dedicate at least 40 percent of units for people earning at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Gross Income.

However, the developers have proposed that 100 percent of the units be affordable to those considered low-income.

“Any community, in order to facilitate growth, needs to be able to provide accommodations for its citizens. I’ve seen a lot of communities do it in a very substandard way; Oxford treats it just like any other high-end development,” Barkley said. “The city of Oxford planning department does a whole lot for the city in regards to intentional development. It’s a very high standard as far as accommodations, what the city represents.”

An official site plan for Belle Rivers is expected to be presented to the city sometime in July.

During the June 19 meeting of the Oxford Board of Aldermen, a first reading of the proposed Affordable Housing Incentives Ordinance took place. In a statement to the board, from planner Judy Daniel, the proposed ordinance was described as a “first step.”

“These incentives are geared to help developments that will offer housing affordable to those whose annual household income is at 60 to 80 percent of the area median income…” the statement said. “The AMI is a standard measure of determining those who face housing stress because the market is not providing options that work for their income levels.”

For reference, the AMI for Lafayette County is about $43,000. According to the statement, a large percentage of the workforce falls into this category, thanks to a rental market dominated by purpose-built student housing and apartments that rent by the room.

While the ordinance is still in its development stages, the first reading did include some of the incentives proposed by the city.

The first incentive proposed would be a reduction or elimination of city fees, including fees for plan review permits, variance and special exception reviews, building permits and water and sewer connections. Other incentives include tree mitigation, waived bonds on a case-by-case basis and assistance with stormwater and other utility requirements.  

For more information or to read the statements for Belle Rivers and the Affordable Housing Incentives Ordinance, visit http://oxfordms.net/board-of-aldermen-agendas.