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Regional authority opens Eunice housing units

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The area’s regional public housing authority has completed a new housing complex in Lea County.

The authority has developed Horizon Apartments in Eunice, according to Irene Murillo, deputy director of the Eastern Housing Regional Authority, based in Roswell.

“The leasing has begun there,” she said. “At this point, it is about 60 percent occupied.”

The authority, which now serves about 12 counties, has submitted its annual report for the fiscal year ended June 30 to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.

Among the year’s new activities was the opening of the new apartment building, developed in cooperation with the town of Eunice. Eunice’s housing authority became part of the regional group in 2012.

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Mergers and consolidations among state- and locally authorized public housing entities in New Mexico have been common over the past decades as funding decreases, increased federal regulations and management problems have caused some agencies to fold or join with others.

The Eastern Regional Housing Authority used to be one of seven state-authorized authorities in New Mexico, and was known as the Region VI authority, but now there are only three authorities operating under the oversight of the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

Murillo said that the new housing structure in Eunice adds 16 affordable apartment units to Lea County.

A March Facebook post by the project’s architects, Autotroph Design of Santa Fe, described the apartments as one- and two-bedroom units and a central courtyard.

Murillo said that there continue to be gaps in meeting the needs for affordable housing in the area.

“Everything is based on affordable rent and HUD funding,” she said. “Around the region, there are high-cost areas, and, of course, there are affordability determinations for our clients in the Section 8 program. So definitely we have a definite need throughout southeast New Mexico.”

In Chaves County, the group has about 600 families it serves and 52 housing units, she said. The authority serves people primarily through Section 8 housing vouchers and by developing or managing affordable housing units. According to its financial report, its primary sources of revenues are the Housing and Urban Development Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Two new policies also were introduced by the regional authority during the year. One prohibits smoking inside units or buildings or within 25 feet of units. The other provides for emergency transfers of residents, if at all possible, to safer units in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. The second provision was used once during the fiscal year in the region, Murillo said.

The agency ended the year with $6.96 million in total assets and total liabilities, including pensions and other long-term debt, of $4.33 million. Its total operating revenues were $4.71 million, while its total operating expenses were $5.05 million. But, as a result of grants, federal funds and other non-operating revenues, it ended the year with about $3 million in net income.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.