Mercy Housing helps provide safe, attractive units that build community sustainability.
When urban businesses thrive and property values rise, where are families and businesses to go as they face a widening gap between the demand for safe, quality housing and a limited, affordable supply?
One solution is a unique public/private/non-profit project that opened its doors Aug. 11 with a celebratory ribbon cutting. The 29-unit Cottages at Oak Park on one of the city’s main streets is less than a half-mile from the heart of downtown Ocean Springs. It offers one-, two- and three-bedroom rentals designed and constructed like custom homes, while meeting the challenges of affordability in a comprehensive way.
The Cottages at Oak Park are made possible through a partnership between private-sector developers, Mercy Housing and Human Development (MHHD) and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s Eco-Cottage Grant Program.
“We make sure that private developers keep to the spirit of funding,” said MHHD executive director Sarah Landry, “thereby keeping these properties affordable. And we’re staying involved to be sure the developments are building community with front porches and ways to walk or bike through the neighborhood.”
The in-town location puts the cottages within easy walking or biking distance from schools, stores, restaurants, a YMCA with daycare and many other daily needs. Oak Park Elementary is directly across Government Street from the cottages. Rents range from $600 per month to $1,200 for two-story, three-bedroom homes. “We’re glad Ocean Springs is the place for testing this innovative concept,” said Chamber of Commerce executive director Margaret Miller. “It fits with our philosophy of assuring lively neighborhoods in and near Downtown, where people with broad ranges of incomes can live, work and shop.
All the homes are engineered to withstand storm winds in excess of 140 mph. The location, design and construction qualify the Cottages at Oak Park for certification as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) structures, and their design contributes to reducing monthly energy costs and making the houses more affordable.
“We’re the only eco-cottage project in Jackson County,” said developer Joe Cloyd. “We are building another one in Pass Christian and a third in Hancock County. This is the revolution of the MEMA Cottages, and we tried to locate our Jackson County project in a place that allows you to walk to any amenity.”
The Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce contributed to this article.