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Farmington planner reports on housing challenges

Renters have a harder time aligning housing with income
A house at 1206 S. Monterrey Ave. in Farmington is listed for $150,000. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

Long-range Farmington planner Colby Gibson on March 21 presented Farmington City Council with a snapshot of housing, focusing on how to enhance zoning and affordability in order to make Farmington a place where people can live and thrive.

The study looked at demographic and economic data, housing profiles and trends, housing affordability gaps and factors contributing to housing supply and demand. Gibson said the last housing study was done in 2012 and the report was “a much-needed update.”

Farmington faces shrinking affordable housing and increasing demand because of population growth. From 2010 to 2020, Farmington’s population increased by 1.79 percentage points to 46,624. The number of households, 15,910, increased while the number of people per household decreased.

The unemployment rate of 5.3% and vacancy rate of 8.9% are lower than the national average. Lower vacancy rates are considered a positive based on desirability as a place to live, Gibson said.

A home at 702 Ocio St. in northwest Farmington is listed at $599,000. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)

Eighty single-family home building permits were issued in 2022, compared with 40 in 2017. Last fall, San Juan College opened student housing, which accommodates 150 and has 106 currently. Three Rivers Estates, a senior living community, also opened.

Gibson said the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,025, and the median home sale was $246,000. Compared with other cities in the state, affordability rates are higher, according to Gibson. “So Farmington looks very attractive from a housing standpoint,” he said.

The number of real estate listings sold since 2017 increased by 19%, and the number of days on the market fell 59%. The price of a home rose 32%.

According to National Association of Realtors, Farmington’s housing market was in the top 10 metro areas for “largest year-over-year price increases,” with an increase of 20.3%.

Costs indicate that renters face a harder time with affordability, defined by Housing and Urban Development as costs not in excess of 30% of income. Cost-burdened households were at 46.1% of renters, which equates to a 9% increase since 2012, according to the American Community Survey data Gibson referenced. By comparison, only 19.9% of homeowners are cost-burdened, showing a large disparity between renters and owners.

A lower supply of low-income housing availability, along with an increase in housing costs is creating an affordability gap, Gibson said.

Gibson said their study included data on how the response to the pandemic negatively impacted the housing market in terms of availability and affordability.

Colby Gibson, Farmington’s long-range planner, said the “Housing Snapshot” provides an updated analysis of the current housing situation. (Courtesy photo)

The data from the 60-page study will be used to apply for grants such as the Omnibus bill, which will make $85 million available to help with affordability issues.

Gibson said that the “Housing Snapshot,” which stems from a number of housing goals outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan, provides an analysis of the current housing situation in Farmington with an emphasis on housing supply and affordability.

He stated that the city now has a better picture of the local housing market and that information will help measure the city’s success at striving to provide housing at all levels. The city will continue to support the private sector with appropriate policies and zoning.

“Farmington supports private development of affordable housing through federal grants, such as the Community Development Block Grant,” Gibson said in an email.

Grants guidelines must be followed, so the general intention would be to fund city efforts to remove barriers to housing production and preservation.

The loss of jobs due to the recent closure of the San Juan Generating Station, which had a particularly high paying jobs, had a “negative impact on the median income in Farmington,” according to Gibson.

The “Housing Snapshot” is scheduled for the April 25 council agenda for further discussion and possible approval.