Restaurants and other businesses that rely on low wage workers are struggling to meet their staffing needs in Aransas County, because those workers are having a hard time finding affordable housing that’s safe to live in 15 months after Hurricane Harvey.
“I had some great crews before the storm, and we had a few of them that lost their homes during the storm and could not find any place to live out here, and we end up losing them to Corpus Christi and the other marketplaces because they just couldn’t afford the rents available out here,” Rockport hamburger restaurant ‘Steerburger’ owner Mark Beeston said.
One worker Beeston was able to retain is Matthew Kennedy. The cook at Steerburger lost his rental home in the hurricane, but he sold his motorcycle and was able to find a trailer he could afford.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten into the fifth wheel like I did for the price I did, I would have probably ended up going back home, back to northern Indiana,” Kennedy said.
Beeston’s theory that his inability to hire new employees is because of an affordable housing shortage is backed by data. According to Carla Krueger Rinche of the Key Allegro Real Estate Company, there are just 17 three-bedroom homes available for sale in the Rockport-Fulton area for under $200,000. If you’re looking for a two to three-bedroom home in that area under $132,500, you’re out of luck. Krueger Rinche says there are none.
“They can rent, maybe, if there’s any rental available,” she said. “But there really isn’t much for low income families or young adults getting started for anything under $1,000 a month.”
Krueger Rinche says she’s encouraged by news that a developer is considering building affordable multi-family housing units in Rockport. Beeston says that’s exactly what the area needs to attract more people suited for work at his restaurant.
“If you go through town, a lot of our apartment complexes, the multi-unit, multi-family complexes were wiped out,” he said. “And I’d say probably 90-percent of those are still gone.”