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Ordinance for affordable housing incentives moving forward in Oxford

By Kelsey DeVazier

Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting saw the unanimous passage of a new ordinance to provide incentives for affordable housing developments in the city of Oxford.

The vote came following the second reading and public hearing of the ordinance, which saw significant changes from the first reading during a previous meeting of the aldermen last month.

According to the ordinance, the incentives for each proposed affordable housing development should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Criteria for incentives include the percentage of affordable housing offered, the length of time the developer proposes to maintain the affordable housing development, the degree of affordability of the housing offered and the location of the development.

In the ordinance, affordable housing is defined as “housing, available either for rent or purchase, that is affordable to those with household incomes below 80 percent of the standard area median income (“AMI”).”

“These are, as discussed numerous times, an effort on our part to encourage more affordable housing in a community that desperately needs it,” Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “We are victims of our own success in many ways, and one of the ways that shows up most is through our housing costs.”

After consultation with City Attorney Pope Mallette following the first reading of the ordinance, the ordinance was modified, refined and expanded. Definitions and submission requirements were added, along with a limit of validity. A mechanism to allow the use of Tree Escrow Funds on a portion of a designated affordable housing development that is protected by a permanent conservation easement was introduced, and a penalty system for failure to comply with the terms of the granted incentives was included in the second draft.

“We are hoping to encourage developers whose mission is to build affordable housing. We hope to be able to facilitate that and to be a good partner with them and let them know that our community welcomes that,” said Tannehill.

The board stated that modifications will likely be required in the coming months as the concept is refined.