Community Divided Over Affordable Housing Project: Residents Voice Concerns at City Council Meeting

Oxford, November 9, 2023 – Tensions ran high in a recent Oxford City Council meeting as residents expressed fears and reservations about an upcoming affordable housing project. The meeting, lasting nearly two hours, covered a range of topics, with the City Council voting on seven resolutions, hearing nine ordinances, and voting on one amendment to an ordinance.

Cathy Titus, a resident of 101 Charleston Dr., raised concerns on behalf of neighbors, questioning the city’s plan to develop quality housing for low-income workers without compromising the well-being of the existing community. Titus specifically pointed to the troubled history of Parkview Arms Apartments (PVA) at 5032 College Corner Pike, citing it as an example of what could go wrong with poorly managed and maintained housing developments, especially those accepting Section 8 vouchers.

Titus expressed worry that, like previous affordable housing projects, the new homes might be poorly built and maintained, potentially affecting property values and diminishing the overall quality of life for residents, especially those in lower income levels.

Vice Mayor Chantel Raghu responded to these concerns, assuring residents that the low-income status of the housing did not equate to lax management. Raghu emphasized background checks for residents and shared her own experience living across from PVA, acknowledging its poor management but downplaying fears associated with low-income housing.

Lynda Fox, a controller at LJS Management, the company that owns PVA, defended the complex, asserting that public perception did not always reflect the challenges they face. Fox highlighted efforts to work closely with the police department, City Council, and the health department to address issues promptly.

However, Oxford police spokeswoman Lt. Lara Fening acknowledged a higher frequency of police calls to PVA for drug-related incidents compared to other properties in the area, emphasizing the need for proper management in Section 8 housing.

During the meeting, various community members, including Harry Titus, Anne Bailey, and David Smith, voiced their concerns and suggestions about affordable housing. Bailey sought a grant for homeless shelters, Smith questioned the chosen location for the project, and Peggy Branstrator advocated for environmentally friendly features in the initial design.

The City Council also approved several resolutions, including a forgivable loan program for new daycare businesses, funded by $30,000 from the American Rescue Plan. Another approved resolution involved applying for a $40,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for a Community Recycling Program.

Other resolutions covered the acquisition of equipment for emergency services, including Kenwood radios for the Oxford Fire Department, interview room cameras for the Oxford Police Department, and the purchase of two Ford Interceptor Utility SUVs for the police department.

Towards the end of the meeting, community development director Sam Perry shared information about the review of a vacant property at 16 Poplar St., formerly Follett’s bookstore, highlighting environmental issues related to underground fuel storage tanks.

As the city grapples with the challenge of affordable housing, the diverse range of opinions and concerns expressed by residents underscores the complexity of balancing community needs and ensuring the success of such initiatives, particularly in the context of Section 8 housing.

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