Mayor Alan Webber and other dignitaries recently took part in the ribbon-cutting for Soleras Station, an 88-unit deeply affordable apartment project in the Las Soleras subdivision along Interstate 25.
Developed and built by the Santa Fe Housing Trust, Soleras Station is fully rented with a waiting list already growing. Its genesis came from a novel deal made between Las Soleras owner Pulte Homes, the city of Santa Fe and the Housing Trust.
The deal, largely shepherded by Alexandra Ladd, head of the city’s Affordable Housing Office, demonstrated the city’s flexibility on affordable housing requirements — recognizing that alternative ideas can produce great results.
Normal rules for Pulte would have required the company to build and sell about 60 homes within its 300-unit subdivision at below-market prices to income-qualified buyers. Instead, the property owners, who were negotiating a deal with Pulte, were persuaded to gift a separate parcel within the larger subdivision to the city.
The city was then able to donate it to the nonprofit Housing Trust, which could then seek tax credits and other incentives because of the gift of land by the city. The result is the spanking-new affordable apartments, something sorely needed in our city. It also got Pulte off the hook from building and selling houses on which it would have lost money.
The city saw a much greater need for 88 affordable rental units over 60-plus single-family detached homes under ownership. Some might see the multifamily apartments as being isolated from the exclusivity of the Pulte product line, but they are literally next door to each other, and both will be subsumed by the balance of the 140 acres still to be developed in Las Soleras.
Some apartments at Soleras Station are reserved for very affordable subsidized rents, including for those transitioning out of homelessness. The Housing Trust’s commitment to being more than a rent collector by providing wraparound support services to those in need is far easier to accomplish in a tight setting rather than in multiple dispersed sites.
Similar successful multifamily projects such as the old Stage Coach Inn property on Cerrillos Road and the Village Sage apartments in Tierra Contenta, have made the Housing Trust Santa Fe’s go-to nonprofit developer of affordable multifamily rentals. Soleras Station, for instance, has 14 of its 88 units unsubsidized. There’s a waiting list for those, too.
The good news is that Santa Fe has another nonprofit developer about to get started on its first-ever project on Siler Road. Like Soleras Station, it subsidizes most of the rents with one-bedroom apartments renting for as low as $420 a month. It’s also similar because the city donated the land for the 65-unit project.
What makes Siler Yard distinctive is its pledge to be 100 percent powered by solar. It also will integrate a community makerspace along with meeting rooms and exhibition and performance spaces. The brainchild of Creative Santa Fe’s Cyndi Conn and Daniel Werwath, executive director of nonprofit New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing, the project was finally granted $10.5 million in tax credits it could sell to help subsidize low-rent apartments.
Between Soleras Station and Siler Yard, Santa Fe will get 150 new apartments, many of which will be subsidized for maximum affordability. That’s great news for our community. The open question is whether the two entities have the capacity to develop and produce 20 times that amount in order to make a dent in a need for well over 3,000 apartments.
That’s a big lift. It will only be accomplished by convincing our governing bodies to come up with the land, infrastructure and bridge loans necessary for such projects to succeed.
Kim Shanahan is a longtime Santa Fe builder and former executive officer of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.