The need for housing was the subject of a three-hour summit Monday that touched on different facets plaguing Roswell and southeast New Mexico.
Homebuilders, realtors, bankers and city officials engaged with each other and addressed the audience at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center. The summit was hosted by the city and the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation.
Michael Espiritu, director of the Economic Development Corporation, told the audience the summit represented a “call to action” about how to confront the challenge of housing in Roswell now and in the coming years.
Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the summit was more about networking and starting a discussion than emerging with a solution at the end of the event.
“We are beginning a conversation, we are beginning a huge project, we are beginning the solution to a problem that has been with us for decades. That will not be accomplished in one night, it will not happen in a few hours,” Kintigh said.
The increased oil and natural gas production in the Permian Basin has led to an increase in jobs, something attracting people from around the country to southeastern New Mexico, Espiritu said. He added that he constantly hears from people about the need businesses have for more skilled workers and the need for more housing so workers have a place to live.
“And that is the challenge. We need to figure out both,” Espiritu said.
Bill Davis of Berkshire Hathaway spoke to the group and said nationwide home prices are at record highs. He said the median price for a home is now $279,930 and in the western U.S., the median cost is about $410,000. However, with mortgage rates now at or below 4%, housing is also more affordable.
In Roswell, Davis said the real challenge is a lack of housing inventory — the amount of houses that can be bought or sold. The number of houses on the market has dropped in half compared to last year.
Davis said the U.S. economy is now in a “seller’s market” when it comes to sales and prices are increasing due to the lack of supply needed to meet the demand.
He told the audience that one of the things that is needed is more land development for new houses on large tracts of land, along with multifamily residential developments and subdivisions.
Scott E. Mohrhauser, senior vice president for mortgage lending for Pioneer Bank, said that his bank has qualified buyers who can’t find a home on the market. Roswell, he said, is not alone but it applies elsewhere in southeast New Mexico.
He said last week, he visited with a president of a bank branch in Carlsbad who said there were only 20 houses on the market in that city.
Riley Armstrong with Century 21 said there are some tracts of land where housing developments and subdivisions can be built and that he thinks they are being considered for development.
However, from the standpoint of developers, the biggest obstacle is the costs of building infrastructure and the long period of time it takes to fully develop a housing development.
“If it takes 20 or 30 years, that’s too long,” he said “If you are a home builder and you can’t make money, you are not going to do it here, you are going to go somewhere else to do it,” Armstrong said.
Vacant lots in existing subdivisions are still available for new homes, but the value of those lots is little and there is a reluctance to put new homes in those older developments, given the cost.
“With the cost of construction and to turn around and sell those is going to be a little bit expensive,” he said.
Other issues where land is available for housing, he said, include flood zones that developers have to deal with.
Participants in the meeting also touched on the need for more home builders in the area, something they said was affected by the trouble finding qualified workers in the field.
Representatives from banking and finance were also present.
Kurt Gass of Mi Mutual Mortgage, said local community banks can represent an alternative source of financing to the conventional market.
“A lot of times if it makes sense and you go to that bank, they won’t put you in the conventional market, they will try and find a solution,” Gass said.
Real estate contracts, he said, can be another source of home financing for people, though they can be hard to find.
Tiny houses are something the city of Roswell has been looking to modify its zoning ordinances for. Some speakers at the summit say they see them as a source of housing less costly for consumers and builders.
Nicole Austin, chief lending officer with Pioneer Bank, said her bank is lending to an old mobile home park in Alamogordo, where tiny houses have been built.
Half the homes will be leased to traveling nurses and pilots, while the other half will be put up for sale. The homes put up for sale will be marketed to home buyers 55 and older, Austin said. She said it is something that could be great in Roswell as a potential development project.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.