BRENHAM CITY COUNCIL HEARS RESIDENTIAL NEEDS ASSESSMENT, APPOINTS AIRPORT LIAISON

  

The Brenham City Council received new data today (Thursday) to aid in addressing the availability of housing in Brenham.

Brenham Economic Development Director Susan Cates presents the results of a residential needs assessment to the Brenham City Council on Thursday.

Brenham Economic Development Director Susan Cates provided the council with details from a residential needs assessment.  The study was conducted last summer by Community Development Strategies (CDS) to analyze housing supply and demand, survey the local workforce and offer recommendations to resolve current and future needs.

The study included a look at the demographics of Brenham and Washington County, which Cates noted included some “very conservative” population projections that may be lower than actual growth figures.  Per the study, Washington County has seen a growth of 2,572 residents over the past 10 years, approximately half of that in Brenham.  Projected growth in the next five years is another 1,872 residents.  The median age of residents is 41.82, with 69 percent of households having no children under 18.  The county’s average weekly wage, per the assessment, is $963.

Some noteworthy facts collected in CDS’ study include that of the 12,689 workers employed in Brenham, 76 percent live outside the city.  While Cates estimated about 54 percent of that amount still live in Washington County, 46 percent live at least 25 miles from the city and 33 percent live at least 50 miles out.

 

 

Cates said manufacturing wages have the largest impact on the local economy, accounting for 22 percent of all wages paid within Brenham city limits.  In comparison, the healthcare and social services field made up 14 percent of wages.

According to the study, there are an estimated 6,886 housing units in Brenham, with approximately 74 percent being considered single-family detached units, and 77 percent having been built in 1999 or before.  Of all households in Brenham, 32 percent were considered housing cost burdened, meaning over 30 percent of household income is devoted to mortgage or rent.  CDS’ assessment shows there is a demand for at least 50-100 new restricted rental units with monthly rent of $500-875 for workers making at least $35,000 a year, despite Brenham already having a higher number of affordable housing units than the state average per capita.

In the multifamily housing space, there are an estimated 530 market rate apartment units in Brenham, with a 95 percent occupancy rate and many apartment complexes having waiting lists.  The average multifamily rent in Brenham is $842, while the average in surrounding areas, namely College Station and Cypress, is $1,150.  Over the last five years, there has been a local increase of around 2,000 residents, but there are only 120 new multifamily units, and only 16 are considered market rate.

Cates said survey findings indicate around 150-200 new market rate rental units would help provide new rental housing to the 76 percent of Brenham workers living outside the city.  In addition, 30-40 new “higher-end” rentals such as townhomes, condominiums and garden homes could satisfy an existing housing need.

For single-family homes in Brenham, the study found an estimated median value of $195,442.  Homes that sold over $240,000 made up 17 percent of home sales in 2011, but that number shot up to 44 percent in 2020.  Meanwhile, in 2011, 9 percent of homes sold in less than a month, compared to 52 percent last year.  No homes were listed under $160,000 when CDS performed its analysis, and the lowest “entry level” home is currently between $250,000 and $300,000.  Residential infill lots in the city increased from $5,000-10,000 in 2011 to $30,000-80,000 in 2021.

Cates said CDS believes 50 to 75 new entry level single-family homes priced between $180,000-260,000 and built over the next several years would be quickly absorbed.  Cates noted that while 194 single-family homes were permitted in 2021, there are not many homes available with a lower price point.

 

 

Joseph Randy Hodge (right) is introduced by Development Services Director Stephanie Doland (left) as the Brenham Municipal Airport's new liaison at Thursday's Brenham City Council meeting.

Some recommendations of CDS for the city to consider include assisting downtown property owners with fire suppression and other requirements to get second-floor spaces turned into residential space; encouraging the conversion of accessory dwelling units into rental living spaces; filling the middle income worker gap by encouraging rental patio, garden home or townhome products; using marketing and buying programs to ensure lower priced homes are available to local workers; looking into development reimbursement for infrastructure and utility construction related to needed housing development; relaxing minimum lot and street regulations to allow greater flexibility of housing production; and encouraging higher-density housing through smaller lots and houses.

The study was funded by the Brenham Community Development Corporation’s 2021 budget.  Cates said it will later be made available online.

In other items, the council appointed Joseph Randy Hodge to serve as liaison of the Brenham Municipal Airport beginning this month and ending December 2024.

Hodge’s roles as liaison, which is a volunteer position serving in lieu of an Airport Advisory Board, will include serving as the sounding board between airport stakeholders and the city, advocating for additional airport resources or improvements through the city or grant funding, serving as the committee chair for ad-hoc working groups and providing recommendations from those groups to the city council for final approval.  A previously outlined responsibility of reporting violations of airport minimum standards or Federal Aviation Administration standards will instead fall to the airport manager, once one is named.

Hodge and his family moved to Brenham in 2016, and he became a tenant at the airport in 2017.  He received a Master of Business Administration degree in finance and accounting from Texas Christian University, and spent 12 years in airline management and eight years as the secretary/treasurer of a pilot labor union.  He has been a member of the general aviation community since 1976.

Hodge was one of eight applicants for the liaison position.  Applicants not selected will be considered to serve on the business and facility ad-hoc committees, as well as the planning advisory committee to the upcoming airport master plan project.

Also at today’s meeting, the council:

  • Approved a contract between the city and the Texas General Land Office (GLO) related to the Community Development Block Grant Mitigation Program. In May 2021, the city was notified it had been awarded a $5 million grant from the GLO for 11 specific drainage projects throughout town.  The city recently received the final contract documents from the GLO, and upon approval on Thursday, can begin establishing project timelines with the grant administrator, Public Management, and engineer, Strand Associates.  The city will be responsible for 1 percent of matching funds for the grant, equivalent to $50,000, and will use the drainage fund to cover the cost of matching funds.
  • Appointed Mayor Milton Tate to serve as chairman of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 1 Board of Directors for one year effective January 1, 2022.
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