City Council, ODC discuss housing plan

City Council and Odessa Development Corporation members met to discuss the draft of a housing incentives plan, and after some debate appear to be moving forward with the plan.
The plan, drafted by the ODC Compliance Committee, entails using funds from $5 million set aside by the city to provide financial incentives for builders looking to build single- and multi-family residences in the city or county limits.
There are many qualifications to be able to receive these incentives, but one which was brought up involved the price range of single-family homes, which the plan currently sets at between $130,000 and $275,000.
This was originally done after the maximum cost was initially set at $250,000. But ODC Compliance Committee Chairman Chris Cole said it wasn’t a perfect number, and said there was data that showed they could lower the price back to $250,000.
Betsy Triplett-Hurt, ODC Chairwoman, also clarified the plan was looking to build workforce housing, not affordable housing. While the workforce they are looking at providing housing for—teachers, law enforcement, nurses—may still not have the income necessary for a $275,000 home, a banker at the meeting said they offer financing plans to help people in the workforce buy homes.
ODC Board Members Gene Collins and Ted Tuminowski were the lone critics of the plan in the room. Collins questioned the legality of the use of 4A funds for the project
District 2 Council Member Dewey Bryant questioned Collins’ claims, and said the city’s legal staff said it was OK for them to move forward with the plan.
“This is for the benefit of our city who needs so much help right now,” Bryant said.
District 5 Council Member Mari Willis agreed with Bryant and wanted to move forward.
“We’re failing [Odessans] by continuing to have meetings and nothing comes from these meetings,” Willis said. “My fear is we’ll be sitting here two years from today saying the city of Odessa has a housing problem.”
ODC Board Member Ted Tuminowski said he felt the incentives weren’t really incentivizing builders to build more houses, as most homes being built in Odessa now fall into that price range and builders would just see it as an extra $10,000 in their pocket.
Odessa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Wes Burnett, who helped draft the plan, told council members if they have board members who aren’t behind their plans, they can find other members who will be behind them. Cole had similar thoughts, telling them to go with the advice of the city legal staff.
“Go forth with what legal tells us to do,” Cole said. “We have to lean on the people we employ.”
Odessa Housing Finance Corporation Executive Director Jill Miller was also at the meeting, and told officials they wouldn’t get in trouble through this plan, and said they should also look at using the money to develop infrastructure, and work toward using the money for 4B fund uses, which could go directly toward building housing, but would require an election to be usable.
Cole called the plan a seed to get started as they continue looking for more opportunities for additional housing.
Triplett-Hurt said after the meeting she just wants to get a vote and called it a good plan.
“I think it’s well thought out and I thought we had a great discussion today,” she said. “Let’s just get that going. I think we’re just splitting hairs to split hairs. How split can we get this hair?”
ODC will look to vote on the plan at their July 11 meeting, after which it will be presented to City Council for final approval.