Rental homes dwindling

By Argen Duncan PNT Senior Writer

Portales has very few vacancies among residential rental properties, which underlines the need for more housing to sustain population growth, the local economic development director says.

Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation Director Greg Fisher said he conducted a telephone survey Monday of 581 units, almost 25 percent of those in the 88130 zip code.

He found 3.3 percent, or 19, of them were vacant.

Fisher said a 25 percent sample is statistically significant.

According to a news release from RCCDC, the state’s average rate at the beginning of 2009 was 7.6 percent.

Fisher said the 2000 U.S. census indicated Portales had an 11.7 percent vacancy rate in housing rentals at that time.

“I think it’s fairly safe to say we’re at a historic low,” he said of vacancy rates.

Sandra Newsom, owner of Newsom Rentals, said of her approximately 60 rental units, four are empty, and only because they’re undergoing repairs. Other landlords she’s spoken to have full properties as well.

Fisher attributes the low vacancy rate to population growth at Eastern New Mexico University and Cannon Air Force Base.

“Population growth is double what it was two years ago, and construction just hasn’t kept up,” he said.

For the next few years, Fisher expects population growth to remain high.

In 2009, the Portales population is expected to grow 5 percent, faster than at any other point in the past decade, according to the release.

“We definitely need more housing options to attract more residents at this point,” Fisher said.

Without more housing, he said, the population won’t grow.

Fisher said the type of units in demand for both the Cannon and ENMU population are one- to three-bedroom, good-quality units available at a fair price.

Newsom said she and her husband are considering placing four new mobile homes, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, on some property they own.

In a normal year, Portales sees 30 to 40 new homes be built, Fisher said, and he expects to see that number double this year, not counting any large projects that may happen.

However, for the Air Force, 50 units is a “drop in the bucket,” Fisher said.

He said he is working to bring in more housing developments and hopes to make an announcement about those in two or three months.