As Ciudad Juárez witnesses a dip in murders, many Mexicans are feeling safe to return home – and realtors and apartment managers in El Paso, Texas are starting to miss the extra business.
“We noticed a decrease in the amount of occupancy here by an average of about 5 percent within our company. We heard in other areas it was up to 10 percent,” said Nathan Ridgeway, district manager of Resource Residential, which operates five apartment complexes in El Paso.
By 2010, an estimated 400,000 people, or one-third of Ciudad Juárez’s population, had fled the cartel-dominated city once it became the murder capital of the world, according to Census data.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared the country’s war on drugs in 2006. About 3,115 people were murdered in Juárez in 2010, the deadliest year of the drug war, according to the El Diario de Juárez.
Many ended up abandoning their homes and found refuge on the other side of the border, in El Paso. The Borderplex Alliance, a private economic development organization in the El Paso area, said it’s impossible to tell how many people actually migrated from Juárez, but published reports have ranged from 30,000 to 100,000.
“We noticed that a lot of the residents that came over were from the Juárez area,” Ridgeway said. “They moved into the El Paso area and in some instances we noticed that not only did they own homes in Juárez, but they rented here in El Paso as well.”
Some apartment complexes in El Paso were named “Little Mexico,” because it was largely Mexicans moving in. Parking lots were filled with dozens of cars with State of Chihuahua license plates.
Because of the large influx of people, rental rates rose to record levels.
“The occupancy rates and the rental rates during that time frame accelerated significantly to rates we had never seen before,” said Ridgeway.
Many businesses in Juárez also started packing up and opened shop in El Paso.
Last summer, the Mexican government said they had seen a dip of over 40 percent in murders compared to the year before. That led many people from Juárez to feel that it was safe enough to return home.
With the good news across the border, Ridgeway said apartment managers began trying to encourage tenants to stay, including offering special rates and making renovations on properties.
The president of the El Paso Apartment Association said despite the decline in occupancy, the market is still strong.
Many realtors in El Paso specialize in selling homes to Mexican nationals. Kenny Gross, president of the El Paso Association of Realtors, told Fox News Latino realtors are still receiving inquiries everyday, just not as much frequently as previous years.
While they will miss the extra business, Gross said that as Juárez recovers it will translate to economic growth on both sides of the border.
“When you have instability in one area, we’re affected – whether you like it or not,” said Gross.
He said with less reports of bloodshed in El Paso’s bordering city, it may bring more businesses to move into the area.
“The whole area will win,” he said. “Absolutely. ”