first_img Facebook Twitter Twitter Housing incentives paying infrastructure costs Facebook WhatsApp Previous articleRockHounds_MotterTaylorNext articleEctor County solar farm breaks ground Digital AIM Web Support Pinterestcenter_img Pinterest By Digital AIM Web Support – February 24, 2021 TAGS  NEW City of Odessa logo wide USE THIS ONE There has been some debate between city officials whether a proposed housing incentives plan can be paid for through the use of type A sales tax funds, but the city is standing behind its legal staff, who say they can for the purpose of infrastructure. The plan, developed by the Odessa Development Corporation’s Compliance Committee, was discussed heavily by City Council and ODC Board Members this week, with Board Members Ted Tuminowski and Gene Collins questioning their use in this purpose. The basic idea of the plan is to provide financial incentives for new builders who meet certain qualifications, like the price of the home. This would all be coming out of $5 million in type A sales tax funds, set aside by the ODC and City Council. Collins and Tuminowski questioned the use of type A sales tax funds, which are to be used typically for industrial development projects, but Assistant City Attorney Natasha Brooks cited Local Government Code 501.103, which states the money can be used for certain infrastructure improvement projects. “We believe that those type A funds can be used for infrastructure which is necessary to promote or develop expanded business enterprises,” Brooks said. “We’re of the opinion that providing an infrastructure grant to home builders to build workforce housing does in fact promote or develop new or expanded business enterprises.” The question of whether or not housing constitutes a project that can be addressed with type A funds has actually been answered twice by former Attorney General Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton in letters written to the city of Odessa. A project, the letter reads, as defined by the government code, includes land, buildings, equipment, facilities, expenditures, targeted infrastructure and improvements that are for the creation or retention of primary jobs and found by the ODC to be required or suitable for development, retention or expansion of certain facilities. “It is for the board of directors of a development corporation to determine, in the first instance, whether a project or expenditure is authorized under the Development Corporation Act,” Abbott’s letter concludes. Paxton’s letter had the same conclusion that it would be up to the development corporation to determine whether a project is authorized. Mayor David Turner said he had spoken with the Texas Municipal League who said the project would be suitable, and said he was also reaching out to Texas Economic Development Council President/CEO Carlton Schwab for his opinion as well. “To get economic development, we’re limited because we don’t have any people,” Turner said. “If you don’t have enough housing, you can’t expand the economy.” ODC Chairwoman Betsy Triplett-Hurt said not only do they have to have ODC and City Council approval, they also must have specific guidelines on how the money is being used, which is the purpose of the incentive plan. “So therein is the importance of the matrix,” Triplett-Hurt said. “If they said you could build a million-dollar home, then obviously it’s not the intent.” The specific price range for this plan addresses workforce housing, not affordable housing. Workforce housing is aimed at a median family income range from 80% to 120% of the median family income, which in Odessa is $73,900. While that price range in the plan was initially set at $130,000 to 275,000, Turner now said they are looking at lowering that maximum price to $250,000. Tuminowski said 4A funds should just be used for infrastructure projects and the creation of industrial-type jobs, as opposed to retail or restaurant jobs. “They actually kind of took a little liberty in broadening that term to infrastructure,” he said. “I guess there is some grayishness there that you could kind of read between the lines. That’s what attorneys are good at, I guess, is trying to find those gray areas.” Odessa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Wes Burnett said he thought everyone was right in the situation, but said according to the city’s legal staff if the ODC and City Council decided it was an economic development project, they could spend economic development funds on that project. He also told council members during the meeting if they didn’t like how the board was voting, they could get new board members. Collins didn’t think Burnett was trying to make a point of getting rid of him and Tuminowski, he was just making a point of the authority the ODC board had, and said Burnett asked to have lunch with him and didn’t seem angry at him. “I think he was trying to clarify some of the blurred lines,” Collins said. ODC will vote on the housing incentives plan at their July 11 meeting, after which it is expected to be voted on by the City Council at their July 23 meeting. WhatsApp Local Newslast_img

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