City Council accepts housing study recommendations

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

City Council accepted the workforce housing study recommendations Tuesday, agreeing to move forward with a plan to build affordable housing on city-owned land.

The next step in the process, according to City Manager Debi Lee, is to proceed with an appraisal of the land, just east of the municipal golf course, so that terms of a proposed 99-year lease of the land can be accomplished.

That land would be leased to a nonprofit organization, which would administer the project.

“What we propose to do is meet the unmet need in workforce housing,” said Jeff Koskinen, assistant project manager with UniDev of Bethesda, Md., the company that did the study.

Koskinen, talking with the council by phone, outlined the project through a slide show presentation. He said 51 percent of residents responding to the firm’s surveys indicated they would like to move within the next five years and 74 percent said they would accept a home through the project including the restriction that it would be on leased land.

Koskinen showed a slide of a recently completed home listed at $234,000 and said it would take a family with a salary of $72,000 to purchase it. He said the project’s goal is to design homes that can be afforded by those in the $25,000 to $50,000 salary range. Those houses would likely be priced between $110,000 and $190,000, he said.

Prior to the council vote, Portales resident Eddie Hiner asked council members how much the lease would cost each homeowner and if they had a list of financial institutions that would make a loan on the leasehold properties.

Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. answered that the lease amount was not yet determined and would be the duty of the nonprofit board yet to be appointed.

Koskinen said UniDev had a lender willing to finance the properties.

Hiner also questioned whether the construction cost per square foot shown in the slide show was any better than what was locally available.

“Basically the concept here is for the city to make the land available to bring the cost down,” Koskinen said.

In other business city council:

• Adopted an ordinance calling for tougher fines and new procedures for dealing with nuisances such as weeds and abandoned vehicles.

• Adopted resolutions triggering new city utility rates that will go into effect in July. Rates overall will increase about 6 percent, according to Lee.

• Approved a summary subdivision just west of the city limits, at the corner of South Avenue V and West 14th Street, submitted by Kelly Goss.

• Approved renewing membership in the Eastern Plains Council of Governments on a split vote, with councilor Jake Lopez voting against.