Affordable housing development to break ground87th Street project will add 181 units

The Odessa Housing Finance Corporation will break ground Wednesday on the largest affordable housing community built in the city in years, after reconfiguring the project last year and getting new approval from the government financiers.
Planners were sent back to the drawing board on the project early last year after school district officials decided not to lease apartment space for teachers as construction loomed. The housing nonprofit closed financing on the revised project last month.
On Wednesday, officials with the city and the housing nonprofit will announce the start of construction on the first phase of the building on the 48-acre site. That phase includes construction of an apartment complex with 181 units that will serve people who make less than $40,000 per year.
“There’s a huge need for affordable housing,” said Jill Miller, executive director of the organization. “Because even though prices have come down as far as rents go, we are still below market rents on our development.”
Half of the funding for the $33 million project comes from state bonds and a 4 percent tax credit for the apartments. The remainder is funded through a Federal Housing Administration loan.
Meanwhile, housing nonprofit officials hope to begin building two shells for retail businesses that would sit between the apartments and 87th Street. Plans call for seeking businesses such as a grocery store or pharmacy to fill them.
City officials on Wednesday will also dedicate the five roadways within the development in memory of Odessans who died in car wrecks. One of them will be Hunter Miller Way, named for Miller’s 16-year-old son who died in a crash in 2014.
“We just wanted to do a remembrance of everyone and make it a legacy,” Miller said.
Plans call for another memorial in a park inside the development.
Further plans include adding affordable housing for seniors, town homes and single family houses. The nonprofit is applying this year for a more competitive 9 percent tax credit for the senior development.
Rents have since dropped, but cost of living remains high and demand intense, Miller said.
“If the price of oil goes up, then rents go even higher,” Miller said. “And you still have the same people who still qualify. Maintenance workers, municipal workers, teachers’ aides — the people who are at the core of what needs to take place to run a city … Just because the price of oil changes doesn’t mean they are making any more money. The regular people who have regular jobs still need an affordable place to live.”
In a recent interview, Mayor David Turner anticipated a greater need for the city to develop affordable housing in the coming year as the oilfield recovers from a two-year bust.
At the time the organization applied for funding, about 63 percent of the renter population earned less than $40,000 per year in a rental market where less than 10 percent of rental housing is affordably priced, according to the organization.
In December 2015, school officials opted not to follow through with its declared intent to sign a lease in the apartment portion of the project for 60 teachers because they were unsure when the project would be ready and if they could fill it.
Instead, the ECISD board bought the former Gulf Building at 909 W. Second St., adding 31 units to the 16 suites at the Barbara Chancellor House that is also owned by the district.
That forced the housing nonprofit to scale down the apartment complex from 238 units, which required new approval.
The housing development will be beside a retail strip on the growing corridor that includes Hops, Scotch and Vinery Liquor Store and a Domino’s.
The City of Odessa began a project to widen 87th Street about four months ago ahead of developments in the area, which also include the planned Mardis Gras Estates subdivision. Road crews are scheduled to complete the project the spring.
“As a two-lane roadway, 87th, with the current condition it was in, it wouldn’t support the traffic that would be in that area,” the city’s Traffic Operations Superintendent Hal Feldman said last month. “We are trying to be a little proactive in developing this roadway and hopefully have all the roadway there before the development comes, instead of being reactive.”
When the project was announced more than a year ago, some nearby residents said they worried about diminishing property values in addition to the traffic increases the roadwork is meant to address. But city officials and local real estate experts argued that surrounding properties would benefit from the development.
“It’s a good project that they are coming in with,” said District 2 Councilman Dewey Bryant, who was a board member of the nonprofit when it purchased the land for the development about a decade ago. “It’s not cheap, and it’s also in a good area. For the long-range for Odessa, I think it’s excellent … The affordable housing has just such a positive impact. It’s something that people take pride in.”