Housing could be on city’s horizon

By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer

If the mayor and out-of-state developer UniDev have their way, hundreds of units of affordable housing could be on the horizon for Portales.

UniDev, a housing developer from Maryland, made a presentation Thursday morning at Portales City Hall that included specifics about a possible workforce housing residential community.

According to Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr., there is a great need for affordable housing for middle-income Portales residents.

“The largest number of homes being built in our community are in the $200,000 price range and above,” Ortega said. “And unfortunately that leaves most of our largest number of workforce out of that affordability.”

The workforce housing project is aimed at Portales city employees as well as employees of Roosevelt County, Roosevelt General Hospital, Portales Municipal Schools, Eastern New Mexico University and other middle-income earners.

“In the Portales application, the mayor listed all of those employee groups and I believe the number was close to 2,500 employees who would be eligible for workforce housing and he was curious to know what the demand would be from those 2,500 who were working in those job categories,” UniDev assistant project manager Jeffrey Koskinen said.

“If you look in our community, a big number of our workforce is earning a salary of about $23,000 to about $50,000 and that pretty much leaves them out of being able to afford a $200,000 home,” Ortega said.

Ortega went on to say that housing options for the middle -income earner are limited in Portales. Ortega said residents looking for a home in the $80,000 to $150,000 price range will find very few homes.

Organizers have a number of different floor plans and estimate that homes on the projected site will cost between $110,000 and $190,000.

The proposed site for the project is a large area of land just west of Portales, along the Floyd Highway.

“It’s a nice quiet area, it’s a wonderful location we feel and our goal is to masterplan that whole 150 acres to make it a really beautiful part of our community,” Ortega said.

Ortega also noted the city may modify or extend area roads including a connection to Industrial Drive and an extension of University Drive to make the community more accessible to the center of town.

According to UniDev officials, the first steps the Portales city council must complete in the next several months include: voting on recommendation of the project feasibility study and steps to proceed with a mandatory 99-year ground lease to a Portales Workforce Housing Board, to be named at a future date, which will serve a management capacity.

The Portales City Council will hear a modified presentation of the proposal at its regular meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Once the financing and lease are taken care of, UniDev executives project a tentative completion date of September 2008.