Candidates Build

Brazos County sheriff candidate Jason James drives home a nail while Cassandra Machart of Habitat for Texas looks on Friday morning during the Habitat Candidate Build Day on West 27th Street in Bryan, where a Habitat home is being built.

Candidates and Bryan-College Station Habitat for Humanity volunteers joined forces Friday morning to help build a Bryan home at the second annual Candidates Build event.

Local, state and federal candidates helped install siding on Espiridion and Maria Campos’ four-bedroom home on West 27th St., which will soon house the couple and their five children. The local Habitat is funding the initial build while the Campos family completes their required volunteer hours to eventually live in the house that will cost under $600 per month. 

The event is meant to remind candidates about the importance of supporting affordable housing if they are elected, said Charles Coats, B-CS Habitat director of homebuyer services.

“We want to do what we can to make sure that folks like the Campos family are not lost in the dust of the political system, because even locally that can happen,” Coats said. 

Lots of societal problems are connected to home ownership, Habitat for Humanity Texas Executive Director Amy Parham said. Studies have shown that if a child’s parent owns a home, the child is more likely to go on to college and less likely to become a teen parent. 

“[I’m here] to support the crew here as they talk about the importance of affordable housing as it relates to public housing,” Parham said.

“We have to have a healthy housing continuum.”

While he said he is happy to see everything B-CS Habitat is doing, Bryan mayoral candidate Robert Rose said he has researched solutions that are being implemented in other cities for ideas that could potentially be brought to Bryan. 

He said there are incentive programs that encourage builders to offer affordable housing in Austin and low-cost rental units in Milwaukee that he thinks are creative solutions to help low-income families.

“We need to look at other communities that have done this sort of thing to have more creative ideas to meet people where they are with their income,” Rose said. “I think there are a lot of things that could be done that we are not currently doing.” 

Rose will face incumbent Andrew Nelson and Patrick Giammalva in November for the mayoral position.

Since many B-CS Habitat homes are built in his district, single member District 1 Councilman Reuben Marin said he makes an effort to attend the ceremonies when new homeowners receive their houses. 

“The home dedications are moving,” Marin said. “It’s an honor and a pleasure to see what Habitat does for our community. They beautify our community, and they put people in affordable homes which is fantastic.”

Marin said he hopes to be reelected so he has more time to continue working on city projects that help residents receive affordable housing, such as Bryan Home Foundation Initiative. This program allows the city to pay $10,000 for a mobile home that is valued at less than $10,000 so the owners have money to put down on a new house.

Marin will face Sedrick Gilbert in the November election.

Other homeowner assistance programs through the city can connect Bryan residents with affordable house repair services or provide assistance with down payments.

Since he has a background as a builder, Giammalva said volunteering with B-CS Habitat on Friday came naturally and that he supports the organization’s mission.

While he said he didn’t come from a wealthy background, Trent Sutton — who will face Pete Sessions in the Republican primary for the District 17 U.S. House of Representatives seat — said he always knew the comfort of having a house to go home to every night. 

“It’s great seeing people putting forth efforts to give other people those opportunities so that they can rise above their current station and provide greater opportunities for their children as well,” Sutton said. 

Friday’s event was the first time Brazos County attorney candidate Eric Quisenberry worked on a B-CS Habitat job site. He said he was excited to take a day to be a part of the organization’s efforts to provide affordable housing for a local family. He will face local defense attorney Earl Gray in the March primary.

Coats said he saw growth in Candidates Build attendees since last year’s inaugural event, and he hopes to see even more participants interested in talking about affordable housing next year.

“We want to get an impression in [candidates’ minds] now to not lose the focus on the little guy,” Coats said. “Don’t lose the focus on the low-income folks who cook your meals, mow your grass, who work for the university that your kids attend — who do all these essential functions that this city would not exist without.” 

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