The Coastal Bend economy is described as “robust.”
Unemployment is the lowest in a decade at 4.3 percent. Corpus Christi added about 4,200 non-farm jobs, a growth of 2.2 percent from 2017, according to the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi South Texas Economic Development Center.
And with continued Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts, there has been an 8 percent increase in local sales, according to the December 2018 report.
There’s a slight problem: Where’s everybody going to live?
“Corpus Christi’s housing market is increasingly tight,” the report reads. “The amount of housing inventory has dropped for the fourth consecutive month now … as the number of home building permits in the city has lagged behind in the market.”
While there is sustained job growth, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary in Corpus Christi at about $45,000 a year.
The average home price is $200,000, which is the highest since tracking began, according to the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors.
The average rent for an apartment or home? More than $1,500.
“The reality is if you’re making $3,000 a month in Corpus Christi, you’re probably a renter,” said Henry Flores, president of Madhouse Development Services, a company that is building or plans to reconstruct affordable housing complexes this year.
City-wide home building (and home-buying) is at a plateau, but a few apartment complex projects in Corpus Christi are about to break ground.
One project, in the deep Southside, is described as luxury apartments. Two others are existing complexes that need state tax credits to demolish and rebuild to serve low-income residents and senior citizens.
State of renting
The Corpus Christi Association of Realtors keeps tabs on renter and buyer trends.
And there’s a glaring one: there’s no relief in sight for the city’s lack of affordable housing.
“Right now with the market the way it is, the trend (is) toward higher home values,” said Bill Ayer, multiple listing service and governmental affairs director.
In the association’s multiple listing service, 723 rental properties have been leased in the last 180 days. This service does not include every available rental property.
The highest rent listed is $5,400 a month, and the lowest is at $495.
“Wherever we can get affordable housing, we would love to see it,” Ayer said. “We are certainly hopeful in our industry, and for the future of Corpus Christi, that we can house our community here.”
Affordable housing, defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is deemed affordable to those with a median-income household as rated by local income guidelines, said Rudy Bentancourt, director of housing and community development for Corpus Christi.
At the corner of Cimarron and York Crossing boulevards, there is a sorghum field.
But in as quickly as 18 months, it could be the site of Corpus Christi’s newest Class A apartment complex with 286 garden-style units, a free-standing clubhouse, game room and resort-style pool.
Ariza Corpus Christi Apartments is set to break ground by the end of January, said Jon Belanger, vice president of The Woodlands-based Cypressbrook Co. He hopes the project will be completed by mid-2020.
Belanger said the architectural style will be coastal and it will mimic the look of complexes near Disney World in Orlando. Like other Corpus Christi apartments, it will have open breezeways rather than internal hallways.
There are plans for a grill house near the pool, cabanas, a dog-washing station and lockers for mailed packages.
“We thought this was a good location for this type of project with hospitals and medical jobs nearby,” he said. “There is a fair amount of competition all around us that are getting similar rents.”
While looking for the perfect location, Belanger said local brokers told him the developing Southside “was the place to be.”
There are Ariza complexes in College Station and Kyle.
Two Corpus Christi affordable apartment complex projects are competing in different categories to receive housing tax credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
There are plans to demolish and rebuild the 35-unit complex at 509 S. Carancahua Street to serve only the senior citizen community.
It will be 72 units with a sliding rental fee structure, said Flores, with Madhouse Development Services. The average rent will be about $600 a month, he added.
His company recently broke ground on Avanti at Greenwood, an affordable housing project on Greenwood Drive that’s targeting working families making $36,000-$40,000 a year. That project received housing credits in 2016.
Casa de Mañana Apartments, 4702 Old Brownsville Road, will also be competing for TDHCA housing credits in the “at-risk category.”
The complex has 99 units, but there are plans to demolish and rebuild it to serve a multifamily community.
“The tax credits require quick turnaround,” Bentancourt said. “No more than a year and a half, and if they can’t do that, they lose the tax credits.”
Developers should find out they are awarded the tax credits by the end of July. It’s a point-based scoring system, and the council’s resolutions of support will give the projects 17 points each.