The Edmond City Council received a citywide housing study Monday night, but discussions surrounding the report and potential action to increase affordable housing options offered a heated debate among meeting attendees.
“I’ll remind you that the average new home price, one that is newly constructed, is over $400,000,” said Christy Batterson, the city’s housing and community development manager. “The market is competitive. There are not enough units available today.”
The study projects that the city needs to add 8,900 units over the next decade to catch up with its housing demand and provide all types of housing options for varying workforce levels.
“When I say units, I mean roofs. It’s not necessarily apartments,” Batterson said. “It’s not necessarily single-dwelling homes. It’s a wide range of homes that are needed.”
The study estimates that 75 percent of Edmond’s workforce lives outside the city limits and commutes in to work each day.
“Those are your essential workers, your public servants, your teachers, your baristas, your servers, etc., commute from outside of Edmond into Edmond to work,” Batterson said. “Based on growth calculations, many essential jobs in Edmond will not pay a wage that aligns with the housing market.”
Batterson said young professionals trying to start careers and families in Edmond “do not have a lot of options” in Edmond.
“Our early workforce, those that are 25- to 35-year-olds, cannot find an affordable home here in Edmond,” she said.
Savannah Whitehead, chairperson of the Edmond Young Professionals and the Edmond Fine Arts Institute’s program director, said only one member of EYP owns a home within the Edmond city limits.
“Twelve of your most involved young professionals in this community, and only one of us owns a home here,” Whitehead said.
Kristen King, another EYP member who lives outside the city, serves as the Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce’s director of operations. King said issues with housing affordability are causing workforce problems in the city.
“Our chamber members are facing a workforce shortage due to the shortage of attainable housing in our community,” King said. “We hope that all the options will be explored in finding solutions to the problem of attainable housing.”
‘Helping people and giving them things only makes them weaker’
After Batterson’s presentation, Mayor Darrell Davis informed the public that no action would be taken by the council Monday on the housing assessment. Then, the Edmond City Council opened the meeting to public comment.
The first speaker was Robert Semands, who serves on the city’s community oriented policing leadership council. Semands said he invested time, money and “worked his butt off” to live in Edmond. He said he wants to protect “his stock” in the city.
“This idea of helping people and giving them things only makes them weaker, and I really have a problem with that,” Semands said. “What I did in my career is when I wanted more money, I wanted to advance, I went out and got the skills. You go get another degree, you go find something else to do that does make money.”
Megan Schmidt, a veteran and resident in Timber Ridge, said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck and were “lucky” to be able to buy a house during the housing crash in 2008.
“All we want is the same chance,” Schmidt said. “No one is saying that we want to bring down Edmond.”
Caleb McCaleb, president of McCaleb Homes, asked for people to have an open mind.
“The ‘We’re here, you can’t come in’ attitude has got to stop,” McCaleb said. “When 75 percent of your workforce can’t live in the town they work in, that’s a sad statement.”
But resident Julie Dellinger said that, although Edmond is growing, “it doesn’t mean everyone who wants to be here can afford to be here.”
“I can’t afford to live necessarily in Montecito, California. I’m living here,” Dellinger said. “I don’t expect Montecito to say, ‘Julie, we’re going to let you live in Montecito.'”
Lydia Lee, vice president of the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance, said there is “absolutely a need for affordable housing in the city.”
But Lee has participated in three referendum petitions which ultimately halted three separate proposed multifamily developments in 2017, 2021 and 2022. An apartment complex has not been built in the city since April 2012, when Legend V was completed.
“People look at me and go, ‘Oh, you’re anti-apartment.’ There is nothing farther from the truth than to say that,” Lee said. “The thing that I would caution you about is considering the location for these. That is why, (with) so many of these apartment complexes, people get up in arms and object to them, because the projects sit them down in an established single-family community.”
The halted apartment complexes in 2017 and 2021 were proposed to be near East 15th Street and North Bryant Avenue, while the overturned apartment complex in 2022 was proposed north of Memorial Road and west of West Interstate 35 Frontage Road.
Attorney Todd McKinnis, who represents numerous developers and homebuilders in Edmond, made mention of the new Edmond 2050 Alliance, a 501(c)(4) organization group that intends to “engage in supporting responsible growth in city of Edmond projects, policies, leadership and processes,” according to the organization’s memo.
Alongside McKinnis, the group consists of former Edmond City Council members David Chapman and Josh Moore, as well as developers Clay Coldiron and Matthew Meyers.
“It’s a new organization, but it’s made up of over 50 businessmen and women who are some of the largest capital investors and nonprofit supporters in the history of Edmond,” McKinnis said. “Our mission is to collaborate and support good policies and good government and good visioning for the city of Edmond. And so, I’m here just to say thank you, because this (housing study) is long overdue, much needed.”
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Mugg: ‘It’s embarrassing, and it’s got to stop’
After the public comment period concluded, Ward 2 council member Barry Moore said he empathizes with those seeking workforce housing and said Edmond needs to find a solution to its affordable housing problem.
“My mother raised six kids by herself in a house, the mortgage payment was $54 a month. She sold hamburgers for 35 cents. We got food from the county — peanut butter, cheese — to keep our bellies full, and that house payment was $54 a month,” Moore said. “Hell, I bet four or five of us could have pushed it over if we had to. That was our home, and she took care of it the best she could.”
Moore said he and his wife live in east Edmond and are “lucky” to do so.
“That house is worth more than $54 a month. That doesn’t mean that where my mother raised six kids by herself is any less,” Moore said. “I hear people say, ‘We worked hard to get in there.’ She worked hard to put that roof over our heads. She worked hard to see that we were fed and had one pair of jeans to work in and one pair of jeans to go to school with.”
Moore said he wants “people to succeed.”
“If all you can afford is a $140,000 house, that doesn’t make you less human than someone that lives in a $2.5 million house,” Moore said.
Ward 3 council member Christin Mugg said the city has no “motive” with the housing study “other than to make Edmond a great community.”
“This organization is not trying to force ideas. They’re an objective, professional organization that assesses housing needs,” Mugg said. “There was so much said tonight that was frankly embarrassing.”
Mugg then turned to Moore.
“I would love to have you as my neighbor,” Mugg said to Moore through tears. “And your house was cheap, right? But they’re good people. And so, this idea that people who pay less for their home or, God forbid, rent are not good people and not good neighbors is gross.
“It’s embarrassing and it’s got to stop.”
Committee selects AMR as medical transport provider
Monday’s council meeting also included an update on the city’s emergency medical transport provider.
A seven-member committee has selected American Medical Response to succeed EMSA for those services in the city, Edmond Fire Chief Chris Goodwin said Monday. Goodwin said AMR provided the lowest annual subsidy cost, the lowest transport fees and the best membership subscription benefits.
The city had contracted with Emergency Medical Services Authority since 1990, but after EMSA struggled to meet contracted response times since the COVID-19 pandemic, the city opened a request for proposal to seek another provider.
“Thirty to 60 days would be our goal to shoot toward coming back to you with a contract and then moving into that transition no later than the end of this year, if not sooner,” Goodwin said.
Ward 4 council member Stacie Peterson, a former nurse who served on the select committee, praised committee members for their work.
“The fact that we’re finally having dedicated ambulance in our city, every day, every night — we haven’t had that,” Peterson said. “This is amazing.”
(Correction: This article was updated at 3:28 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, to accurately reflect Lydia Lee’s position on the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance. NonDoc regrets this error.)