NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – Norman City Council came together with community members Wednesday to talk about expanding housing options for its residents.

Ward 4 Councilmember said the goal of Wednesday’s meeting was to facilitate a broad discussion about the ins and outs of affordable housing, while bringing different segments of the community together to work towards common solutions.

“The opposition to affordable housing in Norman seems to be under informed. There’s this narrative that it’s just homeless people who would be benefited from affordable housing, but actually it’s affordable based on how much you can pay. We’re seeing a lot of investment come and buy up stock that actually people who make the median income can’t even get,” she added.

Common guidance suggests budgeting a minimum of 30% of gross monthly income for housing expenses.

“Thirty percent or less of your income as what we should be spending on our housing and we’re spending a lot more than that,” said Ward 4 councilmember Brandi Studley.

Population data shows Norman is the 3rd largest city in Oklahoma, and council members said a shortage of about 9,000 affordable housing units is an impediment to growth in the city.

“It’s short of what we need to satisfy the demand,” added City Manager Darrell Pyle.

“We definitely don’t have near enough money to achieve a 9000-unit increase, but we have to start somewhere. We are working with a couple of property owners, working on a couple of different housing types and we recognize there isn’t a one size fits all solution when it comes to affordability,” he added.

While there are over 44,000 households in Norman, at least 19,000 of them fall at or below the median family income (MFI), which represents the dollar amount separating half of the households with higher incomes from half of the households with lower incomes.

“Norman has high rent. We’re kind of known for that. It is difficult to come in, especially as a younger person if you’re graduating from O.U. We want to retain our people that graduate here. We want to, you know, we’re working really hard to bring in great jobs,”said Studley.

“So if we don’t have places for people who are starting out fresh out of college to buy into affordable housing, they’re not going to stay here,” she added.

City Manager Darrel Pyle said a funding allocation of almost seven million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act could help with the process.

“It’s one time money, so we want to make sure we get the best bang for those federal tax dollars in the arena of affordable housing,” he said.

“If you’re not getting it in federal dollars from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and of course, that comes with all of its strings attached, you’re competing with, you know, other general fund demands for public safety and parks and recreation,” he added.

“We definitely don’t have near enough money to achieve a 9000 unit increase, but we have to start somewhere.”