Base population increase boosting rental market

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

It’s never been too difficult for Clovis’ Bill Johnson to rent out a house. But he’s not sure if it’s every been quite this easy.

“I’m getting a lot of calls right now on rentals,” said Johnson, who’s received about 40 calls for five rental units in the last week since he listed them in an advertising circular. “They’re renting, but I’ve got the lower end (on prices), so a lot of people (lose interest).”

The interest has been enough that B&M Enterprises has already made deals on two of the five properties. Johnson said last year, he would run an ad for four weeks to get that same volume of calls.

Cannon officials said Col. Stephen Clark, commander of the base, would come to Thursday’s City Commission meeting to address incoming personnel numbers.

Clark said in a June interview with Freedom New Mexico that he anticipates many more deployments, upwards of nine operational squadrons with a variety of abilities and a population of close to 5,000.

Raymond Gobberg of Cannon’s Public Affairs department said about two-thirds of Cannon personnel live off-base, and that proportion is expected to remain constant as the base expands. Based on those estimates, and a current base population of 3,560 — 2,932 military, 628 civilian — a ramp-up to Clark’s estimates would mean 960 new residents (not counting dependents) for eastern New Mexico.

Clovis City Commissioner Randy Crowder, immediate past vice president of the New Mexico Homebuilders Association, said he didn’t want to speculate on the information Cannon would bring, but he is prepared to ask what kind of housing and prices personnel will seek.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the builders in Clovis. I’ve had conversations with three different builders (outside of the area) that said if we get in a jam, they’ll come to Clovis,” he said.

But Crowder does note that it’s currently “very, very difficult to find a good apartment to rent in the city of Clovis.” Crowder said he had an apartment to rent, and he stuck a “For Rent” sign in the yard and did nothing else. Over the next three days, he got 17 phone calls and ended up renting the place to the first person who called.

Several property rental businesses in Clovis and Portales were contacted, but either declined comment or did not return phone calls.

Lt. Col. Mark Brown, the base’s liaison to the Clovis Municipal School Board of Education, said during Tuesday’s board meeting that private housing projects scheduled for Cannon are undergoing delays, likely due to economic conditions.

Gobberg said the base is working towards accepting requests for proposals over the next 12 months. He added that concerns about a lack of living arrangements for incoming personnel are unfounded.

“Currently construction is planned for two dorms, one in FY 2011 and the other in FY 2012 with completion estimated 18-24 months after breaking ground,” Gobberg said. “We are working with the New Mexico Congressional delegation to accelerate the timeline of this program as much as possible. In the interim, one of our dorms is scheduled to be completely renovated by January 2010.

“These brand new dormitories will ensure that our Airmen are comfortable while in garrison and improve their quality of life.”