The Odessa Development Corporation met recently with a consulting firm to begin their study on how to alleviate the current housing shortage in Odessa.
ODC awarded the contract for the housing study to Houston-based Community Development Strategies in late August at a total cost of $73,060. Their first meetings were Wednesday through Friday, where ODC Chairwoman Betsy Triplett-Hurt said they met with various groups and people — including bankers, developers, realtors and city employees — to give CDS a better idea of the reasons behind the housing shortage.
“You can tell the people who were here are seeking a way to collaborate to get these problems addressed, and that was very, very encouraging to me,” Triplett-Hurt said.
Renee Earls, Odessa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, attended much of the meetings and called them two-and-a-half excellent days of conversation.
“Definitely the common theme was we need more of it,” Earls said about housing. “We need it to be more affordable. There are obstacles I do think that once they were here and they spoke with everyone, that they realized that this is not the normal housing crisis they see in any other community.”
CDS President Steven Spillette and Senior Analyst Michael Prats were with the city during the interviews. Spillette said CDS had previous experience working on housing studies on nearby cities such as Brownwood and Sweetwater, and there is some uniqueness to Odessa’s situation due to the oil and gas industry.
“What y’all have going on with the disparity in pay rates for people in your fastest growing industry, and the spending power and leverage that gives them, the disparity is bigger than what we’ve typically found,” Spillette said.
Spillette said this disparity can cause some distortions to the local housing market. When there is a large volume of people paid at high levels, and companies that are intervening in the market on their own to secure housing for their employees that can introduce some more extreme market distortions than usual.
“It’s not unusual to have housing shortages, many communities have that, it’s just that you have some unique twists that are making things extra difficult,” Spillette said.
The study is expected to last three to four months. Spillette said they were instructed to have a draft report with conclusions and recommendations ready by early February. That report will be an assessment of Odessa’s housing situation, looking at where the gaps in the market are and what kind of housing is needed at what price levels. They will also offer some potential pathways forward to offer some direction for the community to investigate further and try to mitigate problems that could be addressed.
Triplett-Hurt said CDS will be back in Odessa again the first week of December to meet further with developers, as well as sales and leasing officers, and to look at temporary housing facilities to see how those function in the marketplace.
“I wish we’d done it several years ago,” Triplett-Hurt said about the study. “Knowledge is power, and we’re just getting up a whole bunch of knowledge and good stuff is gonna come out of it.”