Base official: Affordable housing needed

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Colonel Steven A. Kimball, commander of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group, speaks to local housing developers Tuesday at a Clovis City Commission housing task force meeting.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Cannon Air Force Base keeps growing. But Cannon officials have concerns about whether affordable housing can keep up.

Personnel from the base met with community members and elected officials Tuesday afternoon at the Clovis-Carver Library to talk about the population increase for Cannon — at least 1,500 over the next five years — and how the public and the military will house them.

Col. Steven Kimball, mission support group commander for the base, said the base is doing what it can to offset upcoming waves of personnel — 100 in the next 30 to 45 days, and another 150 by March, according to Deputy Asset Manager Tim Farmer.

The base is currently at 85 percent capacity, Farmer said, and is maxed out in its dormitories, with a current population around 4,000.

Some solutions include putting in a request for a 96-room dormitory for 2011 instead of 2012 and renovations on an older, unused dormitory at the end of February.

Normally, Kimball said, a base tries to build the bare minimum and let the community build housing to maximize the benefits of incoming personnel.

Kimball said home prices could be an issue. He noted Air Force Special Operations Command tends to have younger personnel than Cannon’s previous mission as a fighter wing.

The younger the personnel, Kimball said, the lower the rank, and the lower Base Allowance Housing payment.

Incoming personnel can either give up their housing allowance and live on base — a shrinking option with estimates of 100 percent capacity by March or April — or find living arrangements in the community.

“To a typical airman, affordable housing is defined by how much of an allowance he gets,” Kimball said. “If he can pay for his housing and utilities, without dipping into his salary, that would be considered affordable.”

What is affordable, according to Kimball’s estimate, is a house in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. Houses being build in Clovis now, he noted, usually start at $190,000.

Cannon officials suggested apartment complexes, townhouses and condominiums might be popular choices for the younger personnel.

Builders and real estate representatives got few specifics on what the military would be building.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield, a longtime Realtor, asked about the status of 801 Housing, which makes up for about 350 of the base’s 1,100 units. The lease for the units in Clovis and Portales runs through 2012-13, and the Air Force must make its intentions with the lease known 12 months in advance.

Kimball said the Air Force is waiting until the last minute to decide on those units because it wants to be able to assess progress in housing privatization — set for June 2011 — and community development.