Rental market putting squeeze on tenants

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks From left to right, Christopher Smith, Thomas Farmer and Jared Gun of P&C Plumbing bed down a sewer pipe Monday on North Martin Luther King Boulevard for an apartment complex under construction.

Sharna Johnson

It’s a good time to be a landlord in Clovis. Tenants? Not so much.

Those in the business of addressing housing needs say they are feeling the pinch of a tight rental market in Clovis, as the city tries to accommodate growth tied to an influx of military personnel at Cannon Air Force Base.

Property Manager Corey Lucero said she had no available rental listings Monday with a handful of rental properties in the process of being fixed up that will open up in the near future.

“It is frustrating (for potential renters, and) it’s frustrating to us too,” she said. “(Clovis is) just kind of having growing pains… It’s just the sheer lack of rentals that is hurting us.”

When properties do become available, Lucero said, they are gone quickly.

Developer Mike Chisum knows that all to well.

On the verge of finishing his eight-duplex, 16-apartment complex on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Chisum said the apartments are already taken and he has just two duplexes left to rent when they are finished between mid-April and May.

He had planned the complex years ago as his first foray into property management, but in 2005 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission slated Cannon for closure, he put it on hold. He revived the project after Cannon got a new mission.

Now, Chisum’s asking price is $1,100 a month — for three-bedroom, two-bath homes with all appliances included, no pets and a military clause releasing tenants if they get orders. He said he’s had no trouble finding tenants, attracting an all-military crowd.

“This is now a landlord’s market. He can pretty much do and say whatever he wants to,” the retired business owner said Monday. “This is my first year … (It’s) probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Chisum said he requires credit and background checks, but so far he’s only rejected people because he has no vacancies.

However, there is a segment of the population that can’t pass those application checks, said Richard Gomez, director of the Lighthouse Mission.

Gomez said the shelter continually sees people who have fallen on hard times, or who earn laborer wages, being shut out of the tight market because property owners can afford to be selective.

Many landlords, Gomez said, won’t accept tenants using government housing vouchers, or they run checks which eliminate those struggling to make it.

“A lot of Realtors need (clients to pass) a background check and people don’t qualify for that … a lot of people don’t have good credit or for one reason or another, lost their good credit,” he said. “It seems like it’s been more of a trend for the last year, and there’s good reasons why they do that, (but) it just makes it difficult for a lot of people.”

Gomez said one shelter resident lost her job as a nurse when she became ill, and her credit suffered so much she couldn’t find new housing after she recovered. Another family had to rent a home in Portales and drive their kids back and forth to Clovis so they don’t have to switch schools before the end of the school year.

Gomez said with growth in the community and ongoing efforts to recruit industry, it is important that the labor class not be left behind or closed out.

“Rent used to be $300 for a two- to three-bedroom home (in low-income neighborhoods), now it’s $600 to $700,” he said. “There has to be something done for the lower (income) population as well. There’s where we get a lot of our labor, and we need to take care of them as well.”

Lucero said her agency, Weichert Realtors, tries to accommodate all ranges of needs.

“We have apartments that are nice for $450 and we do have some that are $325 a month that are (Housing and Urban Development) qualified,” she said. “(Our property owners) that have the low-end properties, they all pretty much accept HUD because they know that’s what’s going to fit in the best.”

But Lucero said a focus should be renewing run-down homes into acceptable rentals, and building new houses

Those are aspects of the affordable housing plan that Clovis Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said the city is in the process of creating to help in some of those areas. She said the plan should be completed and sent before the commission in April.

Burroughes said it will take a multifaceted approach to resolve the rental issues the community has, namely rehabilitating existing houses, developing existing lots within the city and new development.

Based on projections she said the city will need 1,363 rental units —