LOS LUNAS — Residential housing is on the rise in Los Lunas with the development and expansion of several subdivisions, and large employers such as Meta (Facebook) and Amazon helping fuel population growth.
“When I started, we really were still coming out of the recession and out of the housing market crash, so there had not been applications for subdivisions in quite some time,” said Erin Callahan, village of Los Lunas community development director.
Callahan began working at the village in 2015, and said in the past two years, housing development has picked up again with growth focused in three different subdivisions — Fiesta, behind Los Lunas High School; and Huning Ranch and Sierra Vista, on the west mesa.
“A lot of what people see with subdivisions is when the houses start to go up, then people can really see that there is a subdivision developing,” Callahan said. “Within my department, the subdivision process has actually been completed by that point because the land has been subdivided.”
Village residents are seeing more houses built on undeveloped land due to the rise in demand in housing across New Mexico and the United States alike. Callahan said Los Lunas became a hub for these subdivisions because prior to 2008, the village had already zoned and approved the final plats for large swaths of land primarily in the Huning Ranch and Fiesta subdivisions.
Now that the housing market is again picking up steam, these previously-zoned and planned areas are entering into the building phase, in some cases, after sitting vacant and undeveloped for more than two decades.
“Once a subdivision has been created, the final plat has been reported and there are lots to sell, there’s not really a timeline that the houses have to be built,” she said. “A lot of them stay vacant in subdivisions for any number of years. It just depends on the interest.”
The development director said there are nine different subdivision expansions which have received preliminary plat approval from the village and are on track for final plat approval — three in Fiesta, an addition to Jubilee, Vistas at Huning Ranch, and expansions to Sierra Vista.
In the past five years, there have been five different subdivisions that have received final plat approval — Jubilee, Las Terrazas, Inspiracion, Legacy, Vallecito, Tesoro and Vistas at Huning Ranch.
“In addition to the large employers coming in, we would certainly expect that’s driving up the need for housing. We are seeing housing shortages throughout the region,” Callahan said. “Within the greater region and, from what I understand the larger United States, there are housing shortages where the supply of housing is just not keeping up with the demand of people who need to move into new housing.”
As demand for housing grows and the cost of both renting and buying are increasing, a general need for affordable housing is growing in the region, but Callahan said that type of residential real estate is difficult to manage and difficult to incentivize developers to come to the village.
“It’s not just that when you go look for an apartment or house to purchase or rent that you find the price you’re looking for, which would be great,” Callahan said, “but it also implies that there is property management that makes sure the appropriate incomes are being served by the development — make sure it’s affordable for those that need it to be affordable ”
Callahan said gaining financing for affordable housing sometimes roadblocks the development since it will often require tenants to be within 80 percent of the area’s median income. However, the village is working to encourage more affordable housing with the affordable housing ordinance as well as a joint affordable housing plan the village entered into with Valencia County.
Incentives through the ordinance include land at a reduced cost, waived fees and development of infrastructure. ABQ Angel entered into an agreement with the village earlier this year to develop affordable housing on village land, with plans for the company to eventually buy or lease the land as they get closer to construction.
The housing development aims to house low-earning workforce, such as teachers and nurses, however Callahan said a gap will always exist between the highest income an affordable housing development can serve and the market housing rate.
“So far, there are not adequate public solutions, government solutions to influence the private housing market like that, not just in Los Lunas but anywhere in the United States,” she said.