Mayor plans housing goals for Portales

Tony Parra

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega has 20/20/20 vision. He wants 20 new homes for 20 new homeowners in 20 months.
Ortega said he is aggressively pursuing an affordable housing program, something that may be a city-initiated project.
“It’s one of the major efforts for the mayor and city council to establish more affordable home ownership,” Ortega said. “We’re trying to create a program to address the needs in Portales. We have been meeting with officials from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance and (Eastern Plains Council of Government) to get some ideas.”
Ortega announced the goal during the city council meeting on March 16. Affordable housing is a broad term used to describe decent, safe housing which is affordable for individuals who, generally, earn less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), according to the Affordable housing online Web site. The AMI for Portales was $24,658, according to the 2000 census on the Areaconnect Web site.
“It’s a cooperative effort,” Lee Tillman, executive director of the EPCOG, said. “We’ll be able to determine if there needs to be an increase in the construction of new homes, so all of those things will be in place.”
Portales has a lower number of owner-occupied houses than the national average, something program supporters hope to address. The percentage of home-owned and occupied units in Portales is 46.9 percent while the statewide percentage is 60.8 and the U.S. percentage is 60.2, according to the Epodunk Web site containing Portales census information. The Areaconnect Web site listed the percentage for Portales as 54.73 percent.
“The amount of renters in Portales is almost 2,000,” Tillman said. “There’s a potential market and even if it’s only 10 percent of the renters, that’s 200 potential home buyers.”
Tillman said further analysis needs to be completed to determine the need.
The 2000 census shows more than a 1/3 of Portales renters pay more than 35 percent of their household income on rent.
“That’s a high percentage,” Tillman said.
Portales has a lower percentage of homeowners than Clovis, Roswell and Artesia, according to the Areaconnect Web site.
But Tillman cautions the numbers may be deceiving.
“Portales is a different market because of the university,” Tillman said. “A big percentage of renters may be students. It may not be appropriate for them to try to own a home until they graduate if they’re not going to find a job in Portales.”
Ortega, Tillman and Portales City Manager Debi Lee agree the first step for creating a program will be determining a need. Portales will hold a housing fair on April 17 where lenders, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, EPCOG and area constructors will present options for prospective homeowners.
Lee said the site for the event has not yet been determined.
“The first step is to get people qualified,” Lee said. “There are people who do not know about the assistance programs. It will be an all-inclusive fair designed to help people who want to purchase a home.”
Ortega said he hopes to have a program in place in a couple of months.
“We want to have a program to provide housing for all income levels,” Ortega said. “Everyone I have spoken to is interested in assisting the citizens of our community.”