Tupelo City Hall from Tupelo.net
Mississippi Center for Justice files amicus brief supporting the challenge of the appeal.
In August, the Tupelo City Council approved the construction of a planned affordable multifamily housing community, called Flowerdale Commons, which they said would create stable multifamily housing for 46 working families.
Some businesses and residents in Tupelo have appealed the City Council’s decision to approve the apartment construction of Flowerdale Commons, which broke ground late last year, including several concerns coming from neighboring Colonial Estates residents about the project. Those concerns centered around property values, safety, economic benefits, and intergenerational benefits.
The brief cites a complaint by Colonial Estates resident Lee Waldron, who noted a property value concern to the Tupelo Planning Commission.
“My wife and I live there and it’s quiet. It’s just a really nice place to live. Good neighbors and I think this project is not good for the neighborhood,” Lee said. “I think it will decrease, but I don’t care what the fella said; I think it will decrease the property values if it’s low income.”
Fellow resident Linda Garner wrote an email to Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan and several members of the Tupelo City Council noting her concern about safety.
“We know the people low income housing attracts….people of ALL races. We are not talking about only one group of people when saying this,” Garner said. “We bought in Colonial Estates because #1 we have a HOA that restricts anyone from renting their home, #2 this is a safe area and we all know our neighbors, #3 we have a park and walking track which is right across from our house. Like I said before, our street and home is closest to this project. I/we want to continue to feel safe when we walk after dark and when walking to neighbors homes which we often do. We do not want to look out our front window and see strangers in our park, nor do we want to see drug deals taking place.”
The City of Tupelo is challenging the residents’ appeal, and the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) has filed an amicus brief in Lee County’s Circuit Court backing the city and the developers of Flowerdale Commons. The amicus brief asks the court to affirm the City of Tupelo’s approval of the developers’ application to build.
Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of MCJ, said affordable housing is a sound investment that strengthens communities and makes Mississippi an attractive place to live.
“Affordable housing is crucial to helping families achieve financial stability and escape poverty,” Wade said. “We should all be committed to helping our most vulnerable neighbors and building a brighter future for our state.”
MCJ lawyers argue that Tupelo’s affordable housing crisis disproportionately impacts its most vulnerable residents.
“More than 23% of Lee County households earn less than 50% of the area median income, a condition known as ‘relative poverty.’ Significant proportions of Lee County households are elderly (15.4%) or disabled (10.5%),” the brief states. “Nearly 40% of extremely low-income households in Mississippi are headed by a senior citizen or person with disability. Black and Hispanic households are almost twice as likely as White households to face housing cost burdens.”
MCJ further argues that the percentage of cost-burdened households increases as income decreases, writing that more than 80% of extremely low-income households in Mississippi are cost burdened, and 64% of those households are severely cost burdened.
“For very low-income and low-income households, the share decreases to 70% and 46% respectively,” MCJ states, adding that for those reasons the City of Tupelo’s decision was not arbitrary and should be affirmed.