Gentrification, Displacement, and Alienation in the LOU housing market
Four words, one phrase. “Small town southern charm”. This is a phrase that can be interpreted and understood to mean many different things to many different people. However one thing is for certain, the allure of Oxford Mississippi’s “small town southern charm” is what most non-natives will agree intrigued them first to join in. The economy and housing market of Oxford and its surrounding areas is single-handedly influenced by profound growth the University of Mississippi has seen in the last several years. Through the combination of an unpredictable supply and demand in the housing market and overall gentrification of local culture — many who once called Oxford “home” have been hung out to dry.
Gentrification, to put simply, is the process of transforming low-income districts to conform to more affluent, middle-class agendas. This causes housing market prices to skyrocket resulting most often in total displacement of low-income families. Unfortunately in Oxford, with the recent closing of Riverside Place apartments we have seen just that. In Febuary of 2017, Riverside Place & the City of Oxford ended residency contracts with almost 100 tentants.
On March 3rd, the Oxford Eagle reported that the decision to close the only city-owned low-income housing development, raises major concerns about many city officials’ commitments to diversity. They add, by articulating an “unrealistic policy against low-income apartments in favor of single-family homes, the city is effectively saying its lowest-income residents will be unable to afford to live here.”
Local Oxford cab driver Roy P. says he personally knows “at least ten families” that were displaced as a result of the city’s decision to close Riverside Place. Roy says friends of his had to relocate to communities such as Water Valley, and Batesville due to the lack of affordable housing options in Oxford. Roy recalls many people recieving “rent vouchers” from the city as compensation — however, it came too little too late for many families who had already been forced to pack up and move out elsewhere. For members of the LOU community that have been born and raised here, having to relocate due to the pressures of a sky-high housing market just doesn’t settle well.
Many members of the Oxford community are frustrated at alienation of low-income families that has resulted from local gentrification. These citizens are concerned as well about the progress and attitude towards diversity in our city, and hope that local leaders, land owners, & activists will push harder in the future to reverse this housing crisis.