Galveston council should support workforce housing effort


The Galveston City Council should approve a simple resolution of support for Build Galveston’s efforts to ease a housing crisis that threatens to undermine the island economically and culturally.

Build Galveston’s mission is to encourage and help finance development of housing that’s affordable to teachers, police, firefighters and other professionals, journalists for example.

The council is expected Jan. 25 to consider a resolution that doesn’t entail a financial commitment by the city or any other obligation, John Rutherford, a consultant to Build Galveston, told a reporter this week.

The request for council support comes as Build Galveston gains momentum with a $1.5 million commitment from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to the Galveston Essential Workforce Housing Fund, with a goal of raising $5 million in support of attainable workforce housing.

Three other Galveston-based foundations also have committed to the fund, according to Build Galveston.

The main reason for approaching the city council is to educate its members about the initiative and Build Galveston’s capitalization efforts as developers begin to answer requests for proposals and seek permitting through the city, Rutherford said.

“We’re making sure they know what we’re doing and gain their general support,” Rutherford said. “It’s not a financial commitment; this is a program we feel the city needs to support as we go down the road with developers.”

Christine Bryant, CEO of Vision Galveston, and Rutherford have met with funders, developers, banks and the public and private sectors to create a fund to incentivize workforce housing development. Rutherford next week plans to meet with Mayor Craig Brown to hash out language of the resolution, which isn’t finalized.

The resolution would be an important step toward resolving a crisis in which Galveston’s middle-income workers increasingly reside on the mainland, and employers find it increasingly hard to hire, because housing is too expensive, Rutherford said.

That assessment of the situation is exactly correct, based both on our experience and interviews of numerous other island employers.

As we’ve argued before, there’s plenty of room to discuss, debate and argue about where and exactly how Galveston might develop workforce housing.

There’s a lot less room for rational disagreement about whether the city, as in the whole community, should act to correct a worsening shortage of housing affordable to people who work in Galveston.

That, as far as we and many other civic and business leaders are concerned, is a settled question.

It’s a problem that left unaddressed will get worse and already threatens to undermine every aspect of the economy and Galveston’s existence as a vibrant, diverse, authentic, living and breathing city.

All the efforts and substantial money invested to promote and develop the economy, the culture, arts, entertainment and all the rest that contribute to livability are likely to falter and fail if Galveston can’t nurture and maintain a healthy resident workforce.

A council vote of support would cost nothing and commit the city to nothing except willingness to be part of some solution, which council members and administrators all certainly should be.

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