Housing coalition meeting Wednesday

March 19, 2019

Members of the Odessa Development Corporation and others concerned with the city housing crisis will meet Wednesday morning to further organize the housing coalition to be created.

The meeting will be held at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at Odessa Regional Medical Center, 520 E. Sixth St.

ODC Chairwoman Betsy Triplett-Hurt said it will be an informational meeting, with no action being taken by ODC or the city. They will be better planning how to organize the potential coalition, Housing Odessa Workers, seeing who all should be involved in the project to address housing issues, whether public or private entities, and will be looking at a map provided by the city which will show the locations of vacant lots that could be used for redevelopment.

These vacant lots could potentially be used to provide infill housing, one of the solutions proposed by the housing study presented to ODC earlier this month. City Manager Michael Marrero told City Council and ODC members last week his staff was undergoing efforts to identify vacant lots for possible redevelopment, primarily in District 1.

Marrero did not respond to requests for comment asking about the focus on District 1, and has not responded to any requests for comment in two months. District 1 is home to downtown Odessa, an area the city has been trying to revitalize for several years now, through the development of a hotel and convention center and the addition of new businesses.

City Planning Director Randy Brinlee said the city is currently looking at infill development, but isn’t targeting any particular area or district.

“There is an advantage to infill development, and the main advantage is the infrastructure is already in place, so it does cut down on the overall cost,” Brinlee said.

Triplett-Hurt said ODC would like to see all of the available vacant lots be redeveloped for housing, regardless of what district they are in. ODC Board Member Melanie Hollmann similarly said she thinks infill housing will be an important part of the solution, and said District 1 deserves a good infill program as much as anywhere else in the city.

Not every ODC member was on board with the proposed coalition however, which was approved by ODC 3-2 during their Thursday meeting last week. The two dissenting voices, Ted Tuminowski and Gene Collins, said they will be at the Wednesday meeting.

Tuminowski said he doesn’t expect anything to get done at the meeting, and wasn’t sure what they planned on doing.

“There’s probably gonna be 70 or 80 people there and nothing’s gonna get accomplished,” Tuminowski said.

Tuminowski said he would be in favor of infill housing, which he said was the simplest way to develop housing, and said he would love infill housing on the south side of Odessa located in District 1.

“The city’s not gonna develop, they’re gonna want someone to develop it,” Tuminowski said. “There’s just no plan in place, that’s the problem.”

Tuminowski said it seemed like ODC is just throwing a random number out there without coming up with a plan and figuring out how much it would cost. ODC had approved $5 million, which was being held for a Summit power plant project that fell through, to fund HOW.

Collins said he still had some questions he planned on asking during the Wednesday meeting. He said he couldn’t tell if the chairman of the ODC Compliance Committee, Chris Cole, was speaking on behalf of the Compliance Committee or another organization when asking for funding for the coalition, and suggested it may be a conflict of interest if he wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Compliance Committee, or if the Compliance Committee was involved in the coalition.

“Why is the Compliance Committee voting on something that they’re doing themselves?” Collins asked. “In reality, that’s a conflict of interest.”

Collins said he didn’t think forming another organization would help to fix the crisis, and suggested it should be done by a department in the city that has been doing work on housing for years.

As far as infill housing, Collins said he has supported the idea for years, and said he would like to use the city’s master plan moving forward, which would include creating housing downtown. He also expressed interest in building housing on the south side from I-20 to downtown to make the area more urban. Collins said he asked the city to hire an urban developer at a town hall meeting two years ago to urbanize south Odessa.

“Since then, south Odessa is basically turning into a large mobile home park,” Collins said.