Northeastern New Mexico has been described as a "housing desert" where
homes typically sell at a snail's pace or sometimes not at all and new
construction is rare to nonexistent.
"Many communities like Las Vegas (N.M.) lack sufficient housing for families across the income spectrum, causing severe difficulty recruiting and retaining essential employees and stifling economicdevelopment initiatives," said Mack Crow of Century 21/ Rocky Mountain Agency in Las Vegas, N.M.
The irony is that there are plenty of houses in the six counties that form the northeast quadrant of the state -- Colfax, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Union -- but most are not ready or available for purchase by local residents.
Compounding the problem is most potential local buyers have trouble qualifying for a mortgage, usually because of poor credit, housing experts agree.
An initiative is under way to organize a Northeast New Mexico Housing Task Force to explore the housing issues by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.
Getting under way
The first task force meeting is scheduled today at 11 a.m. at the Mosquero School District multipurpose building in the village of Mosquero in Harding County.
"There's a recipe for how you put this all together and that's where we have to get started," said USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner. "You need good local government leadership. You need public and private financing. You need a good group of existing or new homeowners. You need a housing agency to coordinate everything."
The idea for organizing a task force got its start earlier this year when Brunner held a series of informal chat sessions with residents in small towns like Mosquero, Roy, Clayton and Wagon Mound that are typical of the northeast quadrant of the state.
Given his agency's threepronged mission of rural business, housing and utility development, Brunner said, "We figured out that we should be talking about housing."
Colfax, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Union counties make up 16 percent of New Mexico's total land area, 3 percent of the state's population and an almost infinitesimally small portion of the state's new construction.
Building nearly dormant
Of the six counties, only Colfax saw new construction in 2012, according to census data. Ten of the county's 11 new construction projects were houses in the Angel Fire resort area, which is at the west end of Colfax but whose economic orientation is Taos County.
Resort areas like Angel Fire can skew housing statistics in rural counties. Village Manager Jay Mitchell estimated half to two-thirds of Angel Fire's 1,977 single-metered residences are either second homes or investment properties.
In Quay County, Sam Morrow of United Country/ Mesa Real Estate in Logan estimated half of the roughly 2,500 homes in the vicinity of Ute Lake State Park are owned as second homes by out-of-state residents, mostly from Oklahoma and Texas.
Second homes and investment properties help to pump up the number of housing units relative to the number of households in a rural area.
In Colfax County, for example, there were 10,121 housing units compared to only 5,781 households, according to census data. The result is a housing overhang or
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