Big problems deserve big solutions, and that’s why news that three partners will be joining to increase affordable housing in Santa Fe is both welcome and exciting.
Two partners are providing the money, and one is providing the expertise in making affordable housing a reality.
The initial investment will come from Enterprise Bank & Trust and Anchorum St. Vincent, the 50 percent owner of Christus St. Vincent. Each is promising $5 million to form the Community Catalyst Fund, to be administered by a third partner, Homewise, the respected Santa Fe homebuilder and financer.
Best of all, other individuals, businesses, foundations and banks can invest in the fund. The initial $10 million is the foundation of the effort, with many more millions possible.
Bank President Dion Silva and Anchorum CEO Peter Bastone see the investment tripling or quadrupling, with those dollars serving as a catalyst to change the community.
This change is designed to help Santa Fe retain its character even as home prices rise and more newcomers move here. With more affordable housing available, people born and raised here can go to college and return home to work. Young people can rent apartments and when the time is right, afford their first homes, even as they begin their careers. We want the people who work here to be able to live here, should they choose. First, they must be able to afford rent or a mortgage.
Our nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, government employees and other working people priced out of the Santa Fe housing market would become our neighbors again.
Instead of having to jump in their cars to drive to Rio Rancho or Albuquerque after a long day at work, people could become a part of the city where they are employed.
They could be community volunteers. They could shop and spend money in our stores. Their children could keep our local public schools from losing enrollment. Our town could grow younger, with all the creativity and energy that youth provide.
In cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s easy to see the misery that occurs when working people cannot afford homes. They are forced to commute for hours each day. If more housing isn’t built, the existing supply continues to increase in costs. A housing supply shortage puts shelter out of reach for too many, and a lack of housing is making those cities uninhabitable, except for the very wealthy.
In Santa Fe, we have the opportunity to stop the current trends by building more housing.
Like in those California cities, many neighbors here say they support affordable housing, only to change their minds when the new homes or apartments are down the street. Housing advocates — whether from nonprofits or government — have to do a better job of explaining why the lack of housing will damage Santa Fe more severely than building more homes. For those worried about the lack of water, developers have to secure water rights before construction starts and Santa Fe’s conservation practices have reined in water usage even as the city has grown.
For Mike Loftin, the longtime Homewise CEO, it’s important to make it easier for people who work here to live here, so they never have to move away. He sees the money going for housing loans, to build or buy more affordable housing — from 50 to as many as 100 or more homes a year — and even to convert commercial space into housing.
The groups involved understand affordable housing serves as an underpinning for greater community stability and health. In other words, housing can provide a path to a more sustainable, vibrant community. Such an approach will help Santa Fe remain a town where people both work and live. That’s something we all should support.