Clovis moving ahead with affordable housing plan

When Clovis found out that nearby Cannon Air Force Base would receive a bump in personnel for its new Air Force Special Operations Command mission, growth management consultants suggested an affordable housing plan as responsible planning for the city’s future.

The last two commanders at Cannon, and some of their officers, have spoken at length about such needs.

The city is now taking a crack at such a plan, and it’s taking its first step beyond the drafting stage.

The introduction of an ordinance for the Affordable Housing Plan is on the agenda for Thursday’s Clovis City Commission meeting. If the introduction is approved, the ordinance could be back at the commission as soon as May 5 — its first regular meeting that would allow for publication two weeks prior to a vote.

A draft copy of the plan is available on the city’s website, www.cityofclovis.org, but Claire Burroughes, the city’s legislative and community development director, said numerous changes have taken place on the project with Consensus Planing.

Much of the plan centers around Area Median Income, a sample annual income for a Clovis family that is a halfway point — half of Clovis makes less than that annually, and half makes more.

For Clovis, the AMI is $46,300 annually. One of the plan’s goals is to increase affordable housing for households between 30 percent and 120 percent of AMI.

Assuming 30 percent of income is spent on rent or a mortgage, a monthly payment ranges between $347.25 and $1,389.

The biggest need is rentals, Burroughes said, and anybody who’s tried to rent in Clovis knows the challenges. If somebody’s moving out, word of mouth alone will have the place taken within days.

Included in the study is a snapshot of advertised rentals on March 7. In a city of nearly 38,000 people, there were 11 places for rent advertised, with a total of 23 bedrooms and rent ranging from $385 to $1,450 a month.

According to a housing survey in the plan, a majority felt reasonable housing was a three-bedroom dwelling for $145,000 — which translates to a monthly payment of $778.39, assuming a 30-year mortgage at 5 percent interest.

That’s 30 percent of the income for a salary of about $31,200. In the Air Force, only ranks of E5 and above are in such salary slots.

“Everybody below (the rank of) E5 is at 80 percent (of AMI),” Burroughes said, “which is the bulk of the people coming into Cannon Air Force Base.”

Part of the problem, Burroughes said, can be done with upgrades and infills of vacant lots in current residential neighborhoods. There are numerous vacant homes in disrepair, Burroughes said, but, “We cannot demolish them because they are not structurally compromised.”

A new subdivision requires paving of streets, creating utility hookups and acquiring land — expenses usually not encumbered on infill and rehab projects, and savings could be passed on to the renter or purchaser.

The plan, which includes loads of demographic information about Clovis, currently does not reflect the latest U.S. Census figures. But Burroughes said they will have a place in the plan, which she hoped could be a “living document” for the city.

“It’s not something for the shelf,” Burroughes said. “We will be looking at census figures.”

City Commissioner Randy Crowder has been the only commissioner to vote in opposition to the affordable housing plan. He said he looks forward to reading the plan, and is confident Burroughes and others have the city’s best interest in mind. But in general, he opposes the plan.

“They can become the foundation for a lot of government control over housing,” Crowder said. “While we’re looking at it for a specific purpose in the community, those plans can become so much more … (and can), in effect, influence the housing market.”

Crowder said a letter for a loan of up to $1.4 million to facilitate work on Hotel Clovis is an example. A paragraph in the loan agreement, contingent on approval of an affordable housing act, would change terms of the loan and add the ability to indefinitely defer payments.

He is concerned the housing plan could have a “Trojan horse” effect and builders won’t work with the city unless they’re promised financial incentives beyond what they’d get in the free market.

When he reads the plan, he wants to know how somebody qualifies for waivers, specific types of loans or grants, and wants to make sure such qualifications don’t change when citizens elect a different mayor or commissioner.

So far, the city and Consensus Planning have spent $15,000 on the housing plan. Of that total, $10,000 was provided by the state’s Mortgage Finance Authority, and the rest was approved at a recent city commission meeting.