In the summer of 1959, while the rest of the nation was humming along with "Peggy Sue," a group of industrious Houstonians was meeting at Kelly’s on South Main to discuss a City Hall problem dealing with sewers. They were also concerned about the rising problems of skips, bad checks and evictions. Little did anyone realize that summer that this group would be the catalyst for a series of events that would eventually lead to the establishment of the Houston Apartment Association, helping to shape the future of the local apartment industry.
The sewer problem that sparked the original meeting was a threat by Houston Mayor Lewis Cutrer to levy a sewer tax on apartment owners. Cutrer later backed down, but the momentum had already started, and the Houston Apartment Association was born in October 1959 when the first meeting was held at the old Graustark Restaurant off West Alabama. Attending the history-making meeting were Harry Reed, Fred Rizk, Walker Stewart, Bland McReynolds, Bill Schlotfeldt, Mary Lake and two others.
With 50 people in attendance, HAA held its first formal meeting on January 13, 1960. Prior to a genuine office, HAA met in the Houston Home Builders Association Building at 2710 W. Alabama. HAA’s first HAA office was located in the Blaker Building, 3737 Westheimer, owned by Bob Lanier. The first-year budget was $6,000, which included rent, telephone, part-time salaries for Gordon Neilson and Ruth Shapiro and their expenses.
Walker Stewart was named the first president and he was the only president to serve three terms. Other officers serving from 1960-1962 were Bill Schlotfeldt, vice president; Day Weltte, vice president; and Jennette Hunnicutt, secretary-treasurer. Membership grew to 500 in 1965 with Charles Underwood as head of the membership drive and Fred Rizk as HAA president. Under the dedicated direction of Bill Schlotfeldt and Jim Gregory that same year, the Product Service Council was started. Prior to this time, associates had no voice in HAA.
In 1962, after a failed national meeting of the old National Apartment Owners Association in Oklahoma City, the group now known as the National Apartment Association came to Houston for the first HAA Education Conference and Trade Show, which debuted with 40 paid exhibitors. Hosting the National Apartment Convention in 1962 at the Houston Shamrock Hilton after only two years in existence was another major feat for HAA.