Last week’s column was Building Santa Fe’s 100th. It was intended to be a reflective look back over the past couple of years with humble gratitude to the loyal readers who keep it alive. Instead, current events and urgent issues overcame hackneyed intentions.
Column 101 will be reflective, but on a new subject: Aging baby boomers and their inevitable comeuppance.
Last week’s column generated a correction when it referred to the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority’s newly remodeled apartments as Via Consuelo. The correct spelling is Villa Consuelo. But the subject of the column created a flood of calls to fill 50 vacancies for the age- and income-restricted one-bedroom apartments.
By Thursday, 70 applications had been completed and the waiting list was growing, a wait that is likely to be a couple of years or more. It is tragedy of need that will only grow in coming years.
If ever there’s been a generation that felt entitled, it is we boomers. Our parents, born or raised in the Great Depression, took nothing for granted. They assumed nothing in life was guaranteed. For the most part, they scrimped and saved and planned for secure retirements.
Their offspring bought the Madison Avenue hype as we watched Leave It to Beaver and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Life was happy and secure, and if we just kept consuming, the greater economy would provide. Well, it won’t.
Columns 1 through 99 did not receive the number of responses No. 100 garnered. Usual feedback runs from “nice job” to “you’re full of it,” but 100 got: “Can you help me? I’m desperate.”
It is still shaking me up, especially so when contemplating the industry that nurtured so many of us aging boomers in Santa Fe. There is not a Santa Fe general contractor or trade contractor I have ever known who offered a pension plan for their workers. Indeed, it is even doubtful any of the owners of those businesses has a plan for themselves personally. It’s Social Security or nothing.
There are still plenty of 62-year-old men struggling to get up every day and get to job sites. They lace up their boots, throw back a handful of ibuprofen, and gut out the pain of their aching bodies. They know they have to make it to 70 to maximize Social Security benefits, but every day and every year gets harder to endure than the one before.
We never saw it coming, but it’s here and it’s real. Will the hip hold up until I’m Medicare-eligible? Dental implants are how much? Can you speak up, I haven’t got hearing aids yet. We try to make light of it and endure the jibes from smart-aleck millennials and resentful Gen Xers, but its catching up to us for sure.
If we were lucky enough not to lose our homes during the crash of 2008, we still wonder how long we’ll be able make those mortgage payments of $2,000 a month from Social Security.
One of the hallmarks of an entitlement mentality is denial. Denial is also a comfort. Until it isn’t. Fifty of us hit the jackpot last week and secured affordable, secure housing for the balance of our lives. The rest of us will panic and scramble when the time comes.
The housing crisis is not going away and is indeed getting worse. It will continue to worsen as boomers transition from movers and shakers to shufflers and droolers. The Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority is a blessing for our town, but it can’t do it all.