- Court Newkirk
Housing in Okmulgee
Affordable Housing and Market Rate Housing are major issues across the United States. Okmulgee in my humble opinion is reaching a critical state at both ends of the housing spectrum. Our older neighborhoods have a tremendous amount of vacant lots. Lots that once held a home for a family. Unfortunately over the years, due to a lack of maintenance a lot of these homes fell into disrepair and eventually either were condemned and removed or they burnt down. The pipes are still in the ground and the dirt will still hold a good foundation.
I propose we take a close look at our City’s inventory of vacant lots and package those
into a group of building lots for possible development. This is called “in-fill development.” The OADC office made some calls, did some investigating, and we have located a developer who specializes in in-fill housing projects. This company is not the only developer in this market, we will find others. At this time his company if the first to raise their hand and say, “we want to investigate Okmulgee.”
While the developer is doing his research on Okmulgee, the OADC with a couple of volunteers from other local government and development groups are doing some research on “the developer.” This week a group of us from three different development organizations in the City paid a site visit on this developer and one of their recently completed projects. I’ll have to say that I personally was impressed. All brick, three and four bedroom homes, with nice finishing touches. Like granite counter tops, fenced back yards, maintenance services, lease to own with a big portion of each month’s lease payment going into equity if the family decides to purchase. I really liked the fact that all the homes have two car garages and wide driveways. That takes a lot of pressure off of parking in the yard and on neighborhood streets. Okmulgee spends a lot of time and effort talking about City beautification and we should. Okmulgee is not the poster child for beautiful street scenes. Just think about how nice it would be to have hundreds of the empty lots, with over grown weeds and piles of discarded trash replaced with a brand new home. Homes that a very large number of families in Okmulgee can easily afford.
I’m not saying that this is the perfect plan, I’m not reporting that this developer is the perfect builder, what I am saying is we now have developers willing to look at some of our biggest neighborhood problems. Vacant lots. Our City deserves a chance to reinvent our neighborhoods.
While we’ve broken the ice and have interest in Okmulgee, let’s take this opportunity very seriously and try and make a big difference in the way we look and feel about our Town.
Please contact your City Council representative and ask them to consider issuing a Request For Proposal from Housing Developers. Here at the Okmulgee Area Development Corporation, our job is attracting new companies with new jobs, plus helping the companies we currently have to expand and grow. It was very apparent from my first months on the job, that it’s hard to attract new companies if their potential employees don’t have a place
to live. Sometimes you have to work on an unexpected issue before the other end starts to fall into place. We’re not complaining about the work or the effort we need to make to see significant progress. We just want everyone to know, sometimes hurdles have to be overcome one at a time. Then eventually real change starts to happen. We also need our citizens to believe it can happen and it will happen!
About the Author
Court Newkirk is the Executive Director of Okmulgee Area Development Corp (OADC). A native of Oklahoma, he has decades of community and economic development experience, some of which was in Okmulgee in the 90s. Court is a big believer that Okmulgee can be anything it wants to be, if we all work together. Contact Court at Court@ChooseOkmulgee.com.