Council approves study for affordable housing plan

Argen Duncan

Local officials expect an affordable housing plan would not only help with the development of a new 50-unit apartment complex but with attracting more housing later.

At the Portales City Council meeting Tuesday, councilors voted to provide $5,000 to match a $10,000 New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority grant to hire a consultant to do a study and create the plan.

A Colorado developer, New Communities LLC, would like to build a 50-unit apartment complex in Portales, said City Manager Tom Howell. The location is undecided.

If the study shows a need for affordable housing in Portales, as Howell expects it will, the developer will be able to get loan from a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to build the apartments for people who make 120 percent of the local median income or less.

“Of course, we’ve got a big need for housing, not just for Cannon (Air Force Base) growth, but Eastern (New Mexico University) growth and growth in the city overall,” said Mayor Sharon King. “And the affordable housing plan just helps us have more options for providing that housing.”

Howell isn’t sure how long it will take to do the study. He is waiting for a list of approved consultants from the Finance Authority.

The study will determine the housing needs and number of people meeting the income requirements for the USDA program, Howell said. It will include local geography, economics and demographics, he said.

Howell expects the consultant to use existing information rather than collecting data door-to-door.

“Once you get the housing plan, it could be used to try to attract other housing,” he said.

To attract developers, Portales would need to show a documented need for more housing. If a developer wants to come and the city thinks it’s worthwhile, Howell said, the council could pass an affordable housing ordinance.

The ordinance, which Howell said typically comes out of established affordable housing plans, allows the city to do such things as give land to housing developers or help with installing infrastructure.

Howell said he sees a need for more housing in Portales, especially rental properties. While several developers are building new houses for sale, he said, the community has a rental vacancy of about 1 percent. Howell said not everyone wants to buy.

“If we at the city hire an employee that comes from somewhere else, they often have a hard time finding a place to live,” he said.

Plus, Howell said, people already living in the community might like to upgrade their housing if something is available.