TUPELO • City officials have finalized a contract agreement with a property developer to begin construction of new housing on Ida Street.

The Tupelo City Council voted last week to accept the second of two contracts as part of efforts to revitalize Ida Street and attract more people to live in the once blighted neighborhood.

Tupelo Chief Operations Officer Don Lewis said some of the apartments in the area fell into disrepair under private ownership, so the city bought several of them. The city ultimately tore down much of Azalea Gardens and President’s Gate apartments and sold the land to two different developers, King Pines and Hancock Estates.

Lewis said the new homes will be Section 42 housing, which is a type of housing with rents below market rate offered for tenants below certain income levels. The homes would be advertised as affordable housing.

“There will be about 76 single family homes,” Lewis said. “The developers will hire their own property managers on-site to oversee the property.”

Mayor Jason Shelton has made affordable housing one of the core tenets of his administration and spoke strongly in favor of it at several stops in his state of the city forums held earlier this year.

“Affordable housing is not just a huge issue for the city of Tupelo, but the whole country,” Shelton said at a forum in Ward 7 in early March.

This effort by Shelton has previously caused disagreement among the City Council, with some scattered opposition to the development efforts in the Ida Street area. Some council members have said the city shouldn’t be involved in real estate development. Another councilman feared the demolitions were driving low income residents out of the city. Ward 7 Councilman Willie Jennings was concerned for some time about the displacement of low income residents.

“I’m on record as voting against it because we didn’t have a plan at first,” Jennings said. “Now, I’m supportive because we have a plan to build homes there.”

Chief Financial Officer Kim Hanna said the city sold the Ida Street property for more than $2.1 million. The projected completion date is set for early 2020 or early spring.

The city will now move on to Phase II of property development in the area. The city will work with Orion Planning + Design to develop more housing further south on Lawndale Drive.

The city bought around 70 acres of land in the area, and Lewis said the plan is to construct “higher-end” houses on the land.

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