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Oxford City Council on the road to more affordable housing and a sustainable future

City Council

At city council’s Sept. 5 meeting, councilors heard public comment on issues of affordable housing and sustainability.
At city council’s Sept. 5 meeting, councilors heard public comment on issues of affordable housing and sustainability.

At Oxford City Council’s Sept. 5 meeting, councilors addressed two problems facing the Oxford community: lack of affordable housing and a viable sustainability plan. While both of these problems require attention from the council, that didn’t stop backlash from the community over how to move forward.

City council works to make more affordable housing 

Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, said the City of Oxford is looking to purchase 601 W. Chestnut St. using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA funds were allotted by the federal government from the COVID-19 pandemic to provide relief for communities impacted by the pandemic. 

Oxford officials want to use those funds to push for more affordable housing within the community and enhance its low-income housing profile. With the consent of the property owners, the city is looking to purchase properties around Oxford to privately develop the housing.

Greene said the property owners of 601 W. Chestnut St. reached out to city council hoping they would purchase the property. Included in their plans, the council is looking to add an additional acre to the property.

However, not all members of the community see this as a good idea. One resident spoke out against the usage of ARPA money to boost Oxford’s affordable housing market.

“If the city is using COVID relief money to purchase housing, you’ve got it all mixed up,” the resident said. “It sounds to me like the money is being misspent.”

Despite the pushback, the city council unanimously decided to move forward with this project, using $186,250 of the ARPA money allotted to Oxford as well as $97,750 from the Community Development Block Grant to purchase the property. Greene said the actions they are taking with the ARPA money are within the guidelines of what the money should be spent on.

Oxford aims to go green with sustainability plan

Also addressed at the meeting on Sept. 5 was the issue of sustainability within the City of Oxford and the lack of a plan to address it. An ordinance was presented to amend the Oxford Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan to include the Climate Action Plan Entitled Towards a Sustainable, Resilient Future. Presented by Reena Murphy, Oxford’s sustainability coordinator, the plan addressed the city’s goal to “reduce emissions, but also prepare for the consequences of climate change.”

Murphy presented her plan to the council, which included both preventative measures and steps to take once the effects of climate change begin upsetting the Oxford community. Her comprehensive plan established the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, as well as “achieving carbon neutral energy, creating carbon neutral mobility system, becoming a zero waste community and enhancing carbon sequestration.”

The resilience plan also lays out how the Oxford community can be more proactive when it comes to responding to climate change. The plan includes “decreasing risk of increasing temperature, preparing for increased severe storm events, building resilience to participation changes and strengthening ecosystems and urban forests.”

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“The ball is already in motion,” Murphy said. “We need to be resilient when responding to the effects of climate change.”

The council members unanimously supported this ordinance and the effects it will have on Oxford’s goal of sustainability.

“This is a great step in the right direction … you have to start somewhere,” Mayor William Snavely said.

Council will meet again on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Oxford Courthouse.