As the city of Santa Fe plans for development of the midtown campus, a coalition of organizations is advocating for the study of a model the group says would result in “permanently affordable housing” at the site and limit gentrification in surrounding neighborhoods.

A report the coalition released Wednesday recommends the city consider creating a community land trust at the former college campus on St. Michael’s Drive “and other forms of collective stewardship to help stabilize housing in Santa Fe.”

The City Council in May voted to begin negotiations with Dallas-based KDC Real Estate Development & Investments/Cienda Partners for what is expected to be a yearslong redevelopment project at the 64-acre property.

KDC/Cienda is working with 17 New Mexico partners, most from Santa Fe, on creating plans for the site that include an expansion of film studios, educational facilities, a health clinic and affordable housing.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber has said the affordable housing component is critical at the campus, though details for how much housing will be built at the site — and how many units will be offered below market rates — will be part of negotiations throughout the year.

The new report, written by the economic and social justice organization Chainbreaker Collective in collaboration with the New Mexico Health Equity Partnership and California-based Human Impact Partners, encourages the city to consider the land trust model to ensure lower-cost housing constructed at the campus — and even off-campus areas nearby — remains affordable for years to come.

“The areas surrounding the midtown campus are some of the most densely populated by people of color and low-income people in Santa Fe,” the report says. “Some of these neighborhoods, such as Hopewell/Mann, also have a history of disinvestment, leaving them vulnerable to displacement and health risks from gentrification.”

The report describes a community land trust as an organization — often a nonprofit — that provides stewardship over tracts of land with the intent of making housing and community needs accessible to low- and moderate-income families.

After an individual or family buys a home that’s part of a residential land trust, the report says, the homeowner leases the land from the trust, often under a 99-year renewable lease. “If the homeowner wants to sell the home, they agree to sell at an affordable price to pay it forward.”

A community land trust believed to be the first was founded in Georgia in 1969. It was developed to provide farmland for Black families who were forced from their land for participating in the civil rights movement, according to the report.

New Mexico also has experience with a land trust model.

Albuquerque is home to the nationally recognized Sawmill Community Land Trust, which “offers affordable homes and apartments, commercial spaces for small business owners, and resources for the community right here in New Mexico,” the report says.

Tomás Rivera, director of the Santa Fe-based Chainbreaker Collective, said community outreach spearheaded by his organization and others last summer revealed residents’ top priority is maintaining community control over the midtown property, as well as the development process. He said a community land trust is “probably the best way of doing it.”

“Our top concern here is making sure that the surrounding neighborhoods are protected against displacement,” he said, referring to gentrification.

“There could be some sort of model in which we look at using the property itself to help fund some development or acquisition of land in the surrounding neighborhoods and use those as land trusts,” he said.

The report asks the city to explore the possibility of such a model, he added. “We’re not really handing this report and saying, ‘This is what should happen on the entire campus.’ We’re saying, ‘This should be part of the conversation.’ ”

The city created an emergency shelter on the midtown property in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic to help prevent the virus’s spread among members of the homeless community and others who needed a place to isolate. The 14-page report released Wednesday recommends the city continue to provide supportive services there.

In its so-called request for expressions of interest in the midtown property, the city said it was open to land-use models or other forms of ownership “to achieve the public’s equitable and sustainable development goals,” Kristine Mihelcic, the city’s council and constituent services director, said in an email.

While no land trust models were proposed, Mihelcic said such a concept will be considered as the proposed redevelopment moves forward.

The city will “always have a commitment to any ownership models that ensure affordability and stability for Santa Fe communities most at risk of displacement,” she wrote.

Alexandra Ladd, director of the city’s Office of Affordable Housing, said in an email community land trusts are becoming more of a viable option in the housing market. She cited advantages noted in the new report, such as perpetual affordability and community control.

“There are some challenges, however, including the need for long-term stewardship of the trust,” Ladd wrote. “Trusts are typically managed via a nonprofit, collaborative ownership structure that requires a fairly high level of sophistication and durability in order to manage the assets in perpetuity.”

Ladd also said the midtown campus is a “complex project” where market-rate uses will have to generate enough revenue to support or subsidize public uses.

“I think it would be a tough place to use exclusively a land trust development model,” she wrote. “The Sawmill Land Trust in [Albuquerque] has figured it out but also shown that it takes a long time to create the capacity to be financially sustainable.”

Currently, she said, Santa Fe doesn’t have an organization that could develop housing and other facilities at the midtown campus and manage a land trust.

Ladd said she would be interested in figuring out how the city could support the conversion of existing properties, such as subsidized rental complexes, into co-op ownership.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(12) comments

Brian Skeele

Santa Fe is such a desirable place to live, the demand will always outpace supply. Housing prices will continue to rise, as newly created local companies continue to prosper, and folks leaving the high priced coasts and cities move in. The centuries old Hispanic culture has effectively been relocated out of the eastside. Unless we do growth differently, Santa Fe will continue to experience more of the same.

Gentrification has to be tamed.

The high cost of housing is just one piece of the unprecedented challenges we face. Our suburban sprawl, car-dependent lifestyle has an eco-footprint of 5 planets. Suburbia's densities don't support a mixed-use, walkable community, and across America, sprawl's property taxes need to double to cover the cost of differed infrastructure taxes.

Midtown Redevelopment is an amazing opportunity to get all these interrelated elements balanced to create a win-win-win exemplar; high end open market housing, high end housing with shared equity resale restrictions, help support perpetually affordable housing for all those working in the neighborhood, and a density which generates enough taxes to cover the infrastructure maintenance. For starters.

Strategies which bring the cost of living and our eco-footprint down are essential. Strategies such as onsite, integrated food, energy, water, solid waste, transportation, housing, nature, and internet systems and developing a robust Sharing Economy hold the keys to a sustainable, thriving, walkable, equitable future for Santa Fe. Cooperative ownership and land trusts are the kind of mechanisms which have proven effective in stewarding the common good. With Santa Fe's earth-based genius, deeply caring citizens, motivated immigrant communities, and the historic, cultural wisdom of centuries of living on the land, Midtown can call on the wisdom to meet the challenges of our times. We know what doesn't work. It's time to figure out what does work, for people and the planet.

Tom Aageson Aageson

We desperately need moderate cost housing to attract our workforce back to town. There other needs as well that we are forgetting. Our economy has not grown the past several years. People leave to seek new jobs while the city ages. Our school population is decreasing. We need to revitalize our economy. The businesses that produce the greatest number of new jobs are entrepreneurial startups. Thay are small businesses tech driven innovators. These young companies are the backbone of rejuvenated economies. Combining the Homewise housing strategy with focused economic development during the this time when these innovators are leaving the Bay area is an opportunity that will not last forever. Cedar Rapids, Cincinnati, San Antonio and St. Louis are already enjoying this entrepreneur- driven revival. Why not here?

Richard Reinders

I agree Tom, we were in San Antonio earlier this year and vibrant is the best word I could use to describe it, you could feel the enthusiasm in the air. I was so impressed I mentioned it to the economic development person for the County of Santa Fe and suggested he take a trip there with some of the commissioners. This way they can see first hand what a up and coming looks and feels like.

Stefanie Beninato

You bash CA model but think the Texas one is great? Anything to support this enthusiasm other than the "vibrancy" you could feel?

Jarratt Applewhite

hear, hear

David Cartwright

A coalition of organizations? Why don't you describe them a little more. A land trust for the college site is a terrible idea. Sounds like the losers in the competition have put together a "coalition of organizations" to change the outcome. Meanwhile, local groups like Youthworks wait and wait and wait on the city's whims to get operations going with the winner of the contest, whose ideas are considerably better than this "coalition of [dis]organizations."

Greg Mello

Good effort, but why is the City itself not by far the best "land trust"? The City has all sorts of ways to raise money (relative to any nonprofit), has the permanence and the accountability (far more than any nonprofit anyway), has to balance public interests and needs anyway, need not create profit for (a) developer(s), has a management structure already, etc. The City should manage, not sell, this public asset.

Steve Barela

They cant afford the carrying costs on the debt they hold on this. The infrastructure will do to a no pint of return the longer they wait to develop this area

Richard Reinders

The models used in California and NY don't work , now California and NY tax's and regulation has its population moving elsewhere. Using California-based Human Impact Partners involved in the project brings all the problems that were created in California. High tax's and more regulation drive out the poor as well as the wealthy because everything around them goes up in cost with the tax's. Lets not start the vicious cycle of high tax's and regulation. Also expanding into the community around Midtown Campus effects the investment people have put into their homes.

Patrick Brockwell

Richard, Are you advocating against the taxation of high's? I would agree.

Lyn Deardorff

Please add more basic info to articles like this - as a newcomer to the area - so we can understand the article. Where is "midtown campus" area, for example?

Stefanie Beninato

Lyn A computer search of midtown campus santa fe will give you more than enough info. My question is why this type of land trust did not partner with the current developer sooner? How does this affect the city's commitment to explore the developer's project? I agree with Ms Ladd that housing land trust need really stable partners. The fact the NM housing non profit has been supported this year by contracts with the city raises financial viability questions.

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