The results of a months-long housing study were presented to the Odessa City Council and the Odessa Development Corporation Tuesday afternoon, and ODC is already proposing to develop a workforce housing coalition to begin addressing the ongoing housing crisis.
Community Development Strategies, a Houston-based consulting firm, conducted the study, and CDS President Steven Spillette and Senior Analyst Michael Prats presented the findings of the study and their recommendations moving forward.
Spillette started the presentation giving reasons behind the crisis that many already know, how the thriving oil and gas sector is inflating the cost of housing, making it more difficult for residents outside of that sector to pay their rent. One of the unique things about Odessa, Prats said, was that there was no clear distinction in rental prices based on apartment classes as there are in many other cities.
“When we first started getting the rent data, we were pretty shocked,” Spillette said. “We were at properties that were 30 to 40 years old, and they were charging rents that a fancy new property in urban Houston would be charging.”
One of the main needs Spillette thought was required was a new organization to be created that’s not part of any governing entity, but still involved with them, to address workforce housing.
“The need for a new, well-funded and capable organization with active involvement across government and other entities and the right kind of staffing needs to be in place to move things forward,” Spillette said. “Because we just don’t think that any existing organization necessarily has the capability or the mission to address the special needs of the housing market here.”
With that in mind, ODC Chairwoman Besty Triplett-Hurt proposed HOW– Housing Odessa Workers– which she said would provide a central point for new workers who might be facing challenges about housing and helping them ease the process of getting housing, whether it be existing housing, or facilitating the creation of new housing.
Triplett-Hurt said they already scheduled another meeting to discuss HOW, which will be at 7:30 March 20 at Odessa Regional Medical Center, and asked ODC to put up $5 million in funding to be used toward HOW, which she said could be taken from the Summit energy plant deal that fell through years ago.
Spillette called a coalition like this critical, making use of not just government entities, but corporate entities.
“You have an established corporate community that is active in this area, we think there’s a lot of space for them to work on this issue and contribute very significant funding,” Spillette said.
Other recommendations from CDS included creating smaller housing specifically for oilfield workers, which would later be able to be removed should another bust occur.
“In effect, we’re trying to get them separated so we’re blunting the impact they have on the market,” Spillette said.
Infill housing was another suggestion. As opposed to buying more land, the idea would be to take parcels of land and already developed lots and building housing. Triplett-Hurt said after the meeting she thought the idea was awesome.
Another idea Triplett-Hurt had for helping the crisis would be forming a community land trust, which entails taking lands owned by various entities and allowing purchasers to lease the land instead so they don’t have that cost as part of getting their home constructed. Spillette said Austin and Houston are already undertaking land trusts themselves.
Mayor David Turner was at the meeting and called the report a call to action.
“I think this is a call to action, and I think people are tired of talk,” Turner said. “We’ve got to get to work.”