Housing forum attendees say more rentals needed

Liliana Castillo

After 3 1/2 hours of information sharing and discussion at the Regional Growth Planning Committee regional housing forum, officials came to one conclusion: The area needs more rentals.

The forum was held by the planning group Thursday to host communication between military personnel and housing market officials about a lack of affordable housing in the area. With Cannon Air Force Base expected to grow to 6,048 active duty personnel by 2016, airmen and their families are having trouble finding a place to live.

Wing Commander Col. Stephen Clark urged attendees to think of the issue as a community issue, not as a base issue.

“As you all are well aware, this has been an active topic for us since late 2007,” Clark said. “Housing is not a Cannon issue but rather an opportunity for the Clovis, Portales, Melrose metroplex.”

Clovis and Portales Association of Realtors President Wes Graham reported more than 150 homes on the market in August in both cities in the $120,000 to $180,000 price range military personnel are expected to be able to afford. Graham said homes to buy are not in short supply.

Graham said there is no tracking information on rentals but rentals in Clovis are costing about 80 cents per square foot and $1.05 per square foot in Portales.

Members of the banking community said the issue with building large apartment complexes is getting the financing on investment properties.

“Wes’ numbers prove that builders are getting financing they need but if a project is not predicted to provide cash flow, a bank will not issue a loan. The most difficult to provide is rentals,” said Citizens Bank of Clovis President Kent Carruthers.

Col. Steven Kimball, commander of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group, said the issue should be viewed from a long-term point of view.

“Even with the transient nature of the military, the people we have coming in need to be treated as consumers, not as a separate group,” he said.

Kimball said the market in the area has been relatively static but needs to be changed into a dynamic one. He said military salaries and housing allowances are based on the local economy, which is based on the transient nature of the military, which is driven by rentals.

“We need to jump in and create that cycle,” Kimball said. “We need to work on creating the infrastructure to support them.”

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said the city has written letters of support and met with the governor to try to help bring financing for large projects to Clovis.

“We’ve let them know where we are. We’re doing what we can. We will work with developers to help in whatever way we can to encourage some development,” Brumfield said.

Kimball said the forum was helpful.

“Like Col. Clark said, it’s not we and they. We have to work on managing regional growth. It’s more than one group,” Kimball said.

“It looks like everyone who had a stake in the housing market came out,” Kimball said.

Rick Draker with the RGPC said he didn’t think any new issues were raised but the issue was given a focus.

“Rental housing is the issue and credit to finance those projects,” Draker said.

Draker said comments he received were all positive and attendees were happy with the information shared.

Draker reminded attendees that growth is happening naturally as well as through Cannon and projects such as the proposed Tres Amigas Superstation that will create jobs directly and indirectly.

The Tres Amigas complex proposed near Clovis would connect the nation’s major electrical power grids and allow the diversion of excess electric power by transmitting it from one grid to the other.

“If we are not a part of you and this community, then your entire effort to get Cannon off BRAC (Base Closure and Realignment Commission) was for naught,” Clark said. “This is a human endeavor and has to be a community issue and not a base issue. The solution has to come from within the community.”