In pitches to businesses searching for a place to build a factory or otherwise expand their operations, Oklahoma officials have long stressed the state’s relatively low cost of living as an advantage.

The promise of cheaper housing, food and fuel appears to be attracting new businesses and residents to the Sooner State. Oklahoma ranked 10th in the U.S. in net migration between April 2020 and July 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, adding tens of thousands of residents from states like California and Texas. 

With more people comes greater demand for housing. Recent reports presented to the Edmond City Council and Oversight Committee for the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency show there’s work to do to accommodate middle and low-income families. 

Three-quarters of people who work in Edmond commute from somewhere else, according to an assessment released earlier this month by Development Strategies, a St. Louis-based consulting company. The report identified 47% of the city’s renters as cost-burdened, meaning they may not be able to pay rent and cover other essentials like food, health care and transportation. 

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, a watchdog agency that evaluates state spending, issued a report last week evaluating the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority. Examiners determined that rising rent costs and lack of development are weakening the impact of the public trust, which develops low-income housing programs and incentivizes builders to commit to building affordable homes. 

Lawmakers allocated $215 million in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to create the Oklahoma Housing Stability Program. The money will go towards building new single-family homes and multi-family units, as well as helping low-income homebuyers come up with the funds for a down payment or closing costs. 

OHFA is soliciting the public’s feedback on a draft plan to disburse the funds. In its examination, LOFT had its own recommendations on how to quickly and efficiently tackle the affordable housing issue, noting that manufactured and modular homes tend to be more cost-effective and quicker to build. 

Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said a growing waitlist for housing vouchers reflects the need for projects to get started as soon as possible. 

“We have a clear need for more housing for individuals and families with very low incomes and those who work anywhere near the minimum wage,” said Kirt, a member of the LOFT oversight committee, in a statement. “I’m glad the state is investing millions to incentivize new, high-quality rental housing, but we have to ensure new units are affordable for the range of wages in each community.”

Navigating building plans, bureaucracy and public opinion can be a cumbersome process. During the Aug. 15 Edmond City Council meeting, NonDoc reported that several Edmond residents used the public comment period to voice opposition to affordable housing construction, with one resident equating such efforts to a handout. 

How do you think state and local leaders should approach the affordable housing issue? Do you have another story idea or tip you’d like Oklahoma Watch to look into? Let me know at

A quick note: I recently took some time off to deal with a health matter, and it’s possible I missed your call or email while I was away. If that’s the case, please let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. 

What I’m Reading This Week

  • Campaign Finance Reports on Paper a Possibility for Oklahoma: In a Wednesday letter to lawmakers and Gov. Kevin Stitt, outgoing Ethics Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the state’s electronic campaign filing system needs an upgrade or replacement, which could cost $1.2 million over five years to implement and maintain. She suggested that going back to paper filings would be an option. [Tulsa World]
  • Jury Awards $33 Million to the Family of a Man Who Died in an Oklahoma Jail as Staff Mocked Him:  26-year-old Ellis told jail staff that he thought he was dying and that his legs were going numb and turning black. But jail staff accused him of faking his illness, laughed and threatened to shackle him to the floor. An autopsy later found Ellis died of sepsis and pneumonia. [The Frontier]
  • Two Western Oklahoma Cities Work to Preserve Their Hospitals: Clinton residents should have a hospital operating in their community soon, possibly around Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Woodward residents are hoping for a seamless transition to a new hospital management company later this year. [NonDoc]

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