The Odessa City Council decided this week to put the Odessa Development Corporation’s compliance committee in charge of crafting a first draft of a plan to address the city’s housing shortage.
This plan would be related to the $5 million that was set aside by the city to be used for solutions to address the city’s lack of affordable housing. Its initial draft is to be penned by Odessa Chamber of Commerce’s economic development director Wes Burnett, which would then be approved by the compliance committee, then ODC, then the City Council.
“The request was to authorize compliance, AKA Wes, to create a document that would be like a sample, something that would get us started on this that would then be reviewed by the city attorney and by ODC,” At-Large Council Member Peggy Dean said. “Simply because it’s easier to edit than create.”
District 4 Council Member Tom Sprawls said someone has got to get started on developing a plan, and said even if they kicked the project back to ODC, they would probably still get one person to draw it up first.
“There are people that need homes today,” Sprawls said. “The longer we wait is another day they have no place to live.”
District 5 Council Member Mari Willis agreed with Sprawls.
“If we’re creating more meetings, and not getting housing, it’s a problem, because people need housing,” Willis said.
Mayor David Turner said the city also needed to look at how Midland is addressing housing, by paying builders $9,000 for every house they build at a price lower than $200,000.
“If we don’t at least match that, it’s gonna make it easy for builders to go over there,” Turner said.
ODC Chairwoman Betsy Triplett-Hurt said she was absolutely in favor of Burnett creating the first draft, and said that would be following protocol.
“I think it’s great that the council directed Wes to do that,” Triplett-Hurt said. “And it shows movement, it shows we’re doing that.”
ODC Board Member Gene Collins said he would still like for ODC to have a workshop with the City Council about the housing project, and said he didn’t think it was up to the City Council to send any guidelines to the compliance committee, a subcommittee of ODC.
“It’s not that I’m against any of it, but it has to be done right, and I don’t think we’re doing it right,” Collins said.
The City Council did agree they wanted a workshop to discuss a housing plan more to get on the same page with ODC at some point, but Triplett-Hurt and Collins said they had not been made aware of any set date for a workshop yet.
Burnett said he was up to the task of creating the first draft of the plan.
“We need to get some guidelines and some sort of parameters on how that money can be used to hopefully spur some good things in the housing market, so yeah, I’m perfectly fine with that,” Burnett said. “In fact, I’m glad we’re moving forward.”
Triplett-Hurt said the plan would be based off a similar plan used by the city of Perryton, where they used economic development funds to build apartments and housing.