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Study shows more housing needed in Eddy County

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The brand new Roselawn Manor Apartments sit on the former site of Artesia General Hospital. Ground was broken in 2016 for the new housing units and construction wrapped up last year. Before they were built, Artesia officials said they would provide affordable housing to the community. A recent study released by the Carlsbad Department of Development shows more than 9,000 dwellings will need to be built by 2020 across Eddy County for an expected increase in oil and gas activity in the county. (Mike Smith Photo)

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ARTESIA — As oil and gas operations ramp up in the Delaware Basin, the need to house people is expected to increase as well.

The Eddy County Commission heard a report from the Carlsbad Department of Development regarding the housing situation in Eddy County on Tuesday.

John Waters, the head of the CDOD, said studies have shown there is a strong need for housing all over the county.

“The traffic, the occupancy in the local hotels, obviously they’re very high here and of course RV parks, not just talking about the legitimate ones, there are a lot of RVs that are popping up all over the county,” he said.

Waters added that growth is going on from Carlsbad south to the Texas state line.

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“The companies that are here have been telling us this is a problem, we’re hearing more and more from the larger companies moving in, it’s everyone of our industries here in Carlsbad telling us that things are really bad,” he said.

Waters said two separate studies were conducted years ago, one focused on housing in Carlsbad, and the second focused on housing in Eddy County.

The report released Tuesday focused on both places.

Waters said the county saw a slowdown in the oil and gas business in 2016. During that timeframe, he said the occupancy rates at hotels went down to the 60 to 70 percent range.

“While that’s still very profitable for hotels, it shows us that things eased a little bit, but they only stayed that way for months and then of course as the oil and gas industry started picking up again, we started seeing a shift in some of the larger companies, moving in or bringing people in,” he said.

Waters pointed to the “man-camp” issues that commissioners dealt with late last year and earlier this year in the Carlsbad area.

“It’s been a rather contentious one because, the companies have got to put their people up somewhere. They’re trying to access a resource, those people are here, we have an active population in Greater Carlsbad, that includes county and city areas,” he said.

He said that part of Eddy County is seeing 72,000 people based on domestic and residential water use.

“That’s a lot of folks in this area that the census says we only have 43,000 from 2010. There’s a tremendous amount of people in the community,” he added.

Waters estimated that 2,000 housing units have been built in the Carlsbad area for the past seven years. He said more is needed.

District 3 Eddy County Commissioner Jon Henry, who represents the Artesia area, expressed some concerns in the report.

It stated that total housing units needed in the county by 2020 would range from 8,648 to 9,188.

“That’s a lot of units,” Henry said. “I know here in Artesia, we’ve said for quite some time we need more housing. We’ve got a lot of people coming in, I know the one thing that we want to be careful about, and I’m sure Carlsbad Department of Development and I know, (is that all) our economic development group here talks about is (that it’s) overgrowing.”

He added, “What if something happens to the oilfield and we see a dip, we definitely don’t have 9.000 units and then all of a sudden people start disappearing, because you hurt the current home values.”

Henry said the current homeowners in the county need to be protected and there needs to be a way to help the new and potential homeowners that are coming to the area.

“We hear a lot from these big companies that are expanding their operations in Eddy County and I think it’s a great thing,” he said.

“As far as houses go here in Artesia, the biggest thing we hear is the price of the lots,” Henry added.

He brought up the price of lots during Tuesday’s meeting.

“When you have a lot starting anywhere from $30,000-plus, all of a sudden to put a home on it, you’re automatically hitting $250,000 once they build the house and sell the house. So really the struggle is trying to get a lower lot cost so that we can put some of those homes at an affordable price and get them onto the market,” Henry said.

He said some new apartments that were built recently in Artesia have helped the housing situation in The City of Champions.

Henry said business appears to be picking up in Artesia, “I know there’s a lot of optimism in the county and Artesia.”

General assignment reporter Mike Smith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 307, or at sports2@rdrnews.com.

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