City of Oxford creates Affordable Housing Commission

Published 12:10 pm Monday, June 21, 2021

The City of Oxford took a big step in its mission to bring, and keep, affordable housing to its community.

During the Board of Aldermen meeting on June 15, the Board voted to form the Affordable Housing Commission out of the Affordable Housing Committee. The vote makes it the 16th governing board within the city.

Prior to becoming an official commission, the 13-member Affordable Housing Committee helped form ideas on ways to increase affordable housing and would then present them to the Board. The committee was formed in 2019, just months prior to last year’s COVID-19 pandemic.

The new commission will have nine members, who will be chosen by Mayor Robyn Tannehill and then approved by the Board. Members must be residents of Oxford or Lafayette County or employed in organizations related to affordable housing within the county. The majority of the nine-member commission shall work in an employed or volunteer capacity for organizations related to the field of housing, finance or abatement of poverty.

“These changes will better enable efforts to address our ongoing need to find ways to increase supply of affordable housing for our low-wage, full-time workers, or moderate income, skilled and emergency workers, our seniors on limited incomes and our low wage single parents with children,” said Judy Daniel, former city planner and current liaison between the commission and the board.

An ordinance was required to create the new Affordable Housing Commission, which was voted on and approved by the Board. When a new ordinance is being presented to the Board for their potential approval there are usually a second reading with a public hearing and then a third and final reading.The Board took up the vote and approved the resolution on the first reading. Outgoing Alderman Janice Antonow made the motion to approve the forming of the new commission.

“I think we all know that affordable housing is going to have to be addressed in many forms and fashion,” Tannehill said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all thing and not something you can just throw money at and fix it.”

In 2019, two new affordable housing developments, Belle Rivers and Eastover, were built. Belle Rivers reached 100 percent occupancy of its 48 homes within seven weeks while Eastover showed the same rate of occupancy as of February last year.

Stewart Rutledge, who is serving as one of the inaugural co-chairmen of the commission, developed Belle Rivers and Eastover and has been a supporter of getting affordable housing to Oxford. Rutledge also developed Owens Place, which is considered Belle Rivers Phase II, and the development is nearly complete. 

“Plenty of communities try to provide affordable housing through the government just piling on taxes.  Plenty of others just hope people will move to some other town.  Oxford does neither, and it’s really been amazing to see,” Rutledge told the EAGLE in a statement.  “Affordable housing is a talking point in just about every politician’s campaign, but, by putting this Commission in the Code, the City is making a permanent commitment to working on this challenge. That is not common, but it’s a smart way to grow.” 

The Affordable Housing Commission will meet monthly, as do all governing boards and commission, but a date for the commission’s official first meeting has not been set.