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Norman City Council passes $6.4 million affordable housing project

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city council 8/23

The Norman City Council on Aug. 23.

The Norman City Council approved the $6.4 million affordable housing project funding during its Tuesday meeting.

The council voted 5-3 to approve the purchase of property at 1210 West Robinson Street, a former long-term, acute care facility that would serve as a complex to house 40 people. 

Ward 1 councilmember Brandi Studley, Ward 2 councilmember Lauren Schueler, Ward 4 councilmember Helen Grant, Ward 7 councilmember Stephen Holman and Ward 8 councilmember Matthew Peacock voted to approve funding the project. 

Ward 3 councilmember Kelly Lynn, Ward 5 councilmember Rarchar Tortorello and Norman Mayor Larry Heikkila voted against it. 

The passing of the project on Robinson does not guarantee this project, however, it allows further research into the property.

During council comments, Schueler expressed the need for affordable housing, citing the difficultly to receive a Section 8 voucher and find a housing option that complies with residents' needs. Schueler called this vote the “first step” in this initiative.

Lynn read an email he received from a Norman resident that proposed purchasing a former hotel at 309 Norman Center Court near Ed Noble Parkway and developing the property into single room occupancy units. Since the hotel is closer to business than homes, Lynn said this solves an issue he feels residents had with the Robinson proposal. 

“When it’s not in my backyard, it’s not by any housing,” Lynn said. “It’s kinda tucked in there by itself where the problems, if there were problems, it would be much less negligent.”

A prior vote to approve the Robinson project failed 4-3 at the Aug. 9 meeting — one vote short of the five vote requirement via the Norman City charter. Ward 6 councilmember Elizabeth Foreman was not present at either votes. Peacock was not present at the initial vote on Aug. 9, but did appear at the second vote. 

Before the vote was approved, a motion for a special election by Tortorello to turn the vote to Norman voters failed during the meeting.

During the public comment dedicated to Tortorello’s motion, a Norman resident experiencing homelessness, Jade, spoke against a special election, citing how they've faced housing insecurity following the loss of their Section 8 voucher. 

“I have been unable to work for the last two or three years due to disability. I have a masters degree. I’m a hard working individual,” Jade said. “Anyone who wishes to take longer on this crisis we have, where people’s lives are at stake…how about we switch places.”

Senior news reporter

Peggy Dodd is a journalism sophomore and senior news reporter at the Daily. She started in the fall of 2021 and has previously served as a news reporter and junior news reporter. She is originally from Jones, Oklahoma.

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