Opponents say affordable housing plan unnecessary

Sharna Johnson

Voter defeat of an Affordable Housing Ordinance city officials say was designed to create incentives for private industry to develop housing for low-income residents doesn’t mean housing won’t be built, according to opponents of the measure.

Semi-retired banker Darrel Nance said if government gets out of the way and the demand exists, private industry will develop.

“If they need a government incentive to go in there, they don’t need to go in there at all,” he said.

“The best thing that could happen would just be for the city to just get out of the way. The problem is job growth. If you can have job growth, if you can have wage growth, if you can have a viable industry of any sort in this town, then none of this will be a problem.”

The affordable housing ordinance would have given the city the ability to make loans and grants to developers in certain circumstances and to waive permitting fees and donate city-owned distressed properties to developers.

One of those circumstances was developer Stephen Crozier’s plan to convert the abandoned Hotel Clovis building into low-income housing units, with the city providing $1.4 million in loans and grants toward the estimated $12.8 million project.

The proposed ordinance came under fire from the High Plains Patriots, a local group aimed at less government and less government spending.

Clovis Legislative and Community Relations Director Claire Burroughes said the city does not want a heavier role in development, but recognizes private developers avoid older, run-down areas.

“That’s because they say there’s no money in it. We just have these blighted areas like we do now and the city keeps moving in one direction leaving these old areas behind,” she said. “Then the city is the one that’s expected to go in there and condemn them and tear them down.

“The city cannot do anything (now). The ball is back in the private developers’ court and the private developers have the same challenges they have had.”

The loss at the polls was a setback in helping Cannon Air Force Base solve housing shortages the growing base has identified in the community, according to Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

“It’s not so much that this plan was going to be the end all be all for housing, (but) it showed support for Cannon. It looks like the support is not as strong as we said it would be when we were working with Cannon (to save the base from the Base Realignment and Closure commission in 2005),” she said.

Nance said it is not the community’s role to build permanent, long-term housing for Cannon, when he said the military’s commitment to the community is short-term and the personnel are transient.

“They threaten to close that base every year or so. It’s year to year, it’s decision to decision, it’s mission to mission and it doesn’t translate to a stable industry,” he said.

Nance pointed to Roswell as an example of a New Mexico community that progressed independent of the military after losing its Air Force base about 50 years ago.

“I don’t want to throw cold water on Clovis, but drive to Roswell (and) look at Main Street. There are no vacant store fronts… Clovis’ downtown looks like Beirut, downtown Roswell is a viable commercial (environment). We have to get off this government dependence cycle.”