With an air of hope and relief in the room at Tuesday’s meeting, the Kerrville City Council adopted a plan that aims to increase workforce housing in the city.
The plan is based on a comprehensive study on the state of Kerrville’s housing situation. The study was conducted by city consultant Community Development Strategies and includes information on Kerrville’s growth, demographics, employment and housing.
Kerrville is in major need of affordable housing, with the 2017 median household income of $44,113 and the median listing price for a house in August at $297,500, the study says.
“(The housing market) goes from tight to tighter as you go down the income scale,” said Community Development Strategies President Steven Spillette at the meeting. “Employees are having a terrible time trying to find a place to rent when they are hired on.”
The plan includes nine major strategies the city will implement that will allow for more housing opportunities in the area, Spillette said.
Here they are:
SMALLER SPACES, MORE DENSITY
The first two strategies call for taking advantage of smaller spaces to build smaller homes, Spillette said.
“It’s just things like taking a single-family lot that’s vacant or has a structure that needs to be torn down,” Spillette said. “We could put a duplex or a triplex there.”
Such constructions — duplexes, apartments or live/work spaces — make for denser living, which seemingly goes against an “everything’s bigger in Texas” attitude, but Spillette said that’s not the case.
“Folks who said they would consider moving here in the near or middle term ... were willing to consider some pretty small homes,” Spillette said. “It didn’t bother a lot of people.”
MAINTAIN WHAT’S HERE
One way to help the housing “crisis,” as Mayor Bill Blackburn would call it, is to address homes that already exist in Kerrville. That means looking into creating or accessing funds that can help maintain affordable housing.
“The most affordable way of having affordable housing in a community is to work with the affordable housing you already have,” Spillette said.
FIND HELP FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The federal government has a low-income housing tax credit program, which gives select state and local agencies authority to issue tax credits for building, acquiring or rehabilitating low-income housing, according to the office of policy development and research.
While the city plans to support developers who apply for the program, it’s important not to rely too much on it, Spillette said.
“We can’t rely on that for large quantities, because it’s a very competitive program,” he said. “But having stated community support from the council and the overall community ... is very important for them to have a chance to compete.”
ACCOMMODATE SPECIAL RENTER POPULATIONS
Kerrville has a high rehabilitation community, and when people graduate from rehab programs, they often choose to stay in the area, Spillette said. They make up an important part of Kerrville’s workforce.
But one issue the recovery community often has is that they can’t meet qualifications for housing around here, such as minimum credit scores.
If the city aims to support housing that will accommodate people hitting these obstacles, then the recovery community may have more of a chance of finding their home, Spillette said.
CREATE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
The city council supports getting together with employers, financial institutions, the real estate community and developers to set up an educational program to help people learn about housing.
“Get them educated and into a position where they are going to be able to qualify for that mortgage and be ready to strike when that house becomes available,” Spillette said.
This goal will help people become more competitive against investors in the market that buy up houses, which is a problem in Kerrville, Spillette said.
Other strategies listed in the plan include making an incentive policy to encourage developers to build here, using publicly owned land or land owned by philanthropic organizations to develop housing — which in some cases means making partnerships with said organizations — and periodically checking on codes and regulations to ensure that they are as housing-friendly as can be.