Is a $275,000 home affordable?

The City Council and the Odessa Development Corporation will be discussing a plan to provide incentives to builders, but some council and board members question whether the requirements in the plan will provide affordable housing. 

Incentives in the plan would be given to builders who build single-family homes or duplexes with certain qualifications in city or county limits. Single-family homes would be eligible for incentives if they have three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a certified appraisal value between $130,000 and $275,000. But many Odessans have said they don’t consider a $275,000 home to be affordable. 

The plan was drafted by the ODC Compliance Committee, with assistance from Odessa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Wes Burnett and OHFC Executive Director Jill Miller. The maximum value was originally set at $250,000 but Miller said they raised that number to a broader range so more builders would consider the incentives. 

Miller said $275,000 was the maximum amount someone could afford if they made 120% of the median household income. The current median income in Odessa is $73,900. 

“I didn’t want them to just restrict it to where a builder was like ‘I have to keep it way down here so I’m not going to give any amenities,’” Miller said. “There needs to be a bigger range there to make sure all builders are looking at this.” 

The plan highlights areas where infill housing would be available, in the south side of Odessa but also in areas in the north and northeast, but Burnett said builders could qualify for the incentives anywhere as long as the house was in the limits of Odessa or Ector County. 

But some officials aren’t so sold on the plan yet. District 4 Council Member Tom Sprawls said he thinks $275,000 is too high. 

“I’m thinking affordable housing is somewhere around the $150,000 range, and affordable housing is relative to your economic situation in life,” Sprawls said. 

ODC Board Member Ted Tuminowski also said he thought $275,000 was way too high. 

“They are building houses right now in that price range, that’s not encouraging one new house to be built,” Tuminowski said. “The builders that are building them right now are going to say ‘great we get a little rebate.’”

Tuminowski said he would rather see the money that would be used for incentives be directed toward infrastructure, like water and sewer lines, and that it would help bring down housing costs. 

ODC Board Member Gene Collins agreed with Tuminowski, calling the plan “ludicrous” and said he would be voting against it if it’s brought before ODC. 

“That’s like tipping a waitress,” Collins said about the incentives.

Collins said he submitted a plan that would create a land bank, where local entities would take abandoned properties that aren’t currently producing tax revenue, and give them back so they become tax producers to the area. 

ODC and City Council members will meet to discuss the plan further at a meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday on the third floor of City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St.