A Santa Fe housing project that promises to be truly affordable for working families and individuals offers hope. May this project from the Santa Fe County Commission be the first of several such efforts.
The proposal would turn a vacant lot north of Airport Road into a mixed-use housing complex for low-income renters — 93 to 120 units are possible. It’s the first such project from the county in 30 years.
The commission has approved a $600,000 architectural contract with local firm Autotroph to design the mixed-use project, using 2018 designs by Yale University students as the basis. The Yale students won the state Housing and Urban Development Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition.
Final designs will be turned in to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority as part of an application for its 4 percent low-income housing tax credit. The $15 million, 6.6-acre project is to be built on county-owned land inside the city of Santa Fe.
The project is designed to be near transportation as well as offer rooms for social service programs. According to Commissioner Hank Hughes — executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness in his day job — renters won’t be ones who necessarily need continued subsidies to afford a place to live.
By federal guidelines, “affordable” means units are offered at less than 30 percent of a renter’s income. This is to be a complex for people with income — whether from a job, or perhaps a pension — but who can’t afford Santa Fe’s high rents. Families and individuals paying so much of their income for shelter are one car breakdown or a big medical bill away from being unable to pay next month’s rent.
Those folks have plenty of company.
A report from the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness shows that of 6,720 families making $50,000 or less, some 86 percent pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. In the housing lingo, that makes them “rent-burdened.”
For renters who make less than $35,000 a year in Santa Fe County, the number is 96 percent.
Obviously, one apartment complex is just the beginning. As Commissioner Anna Hansen told The New Mexican: “We basically need affordable housing.” She is correct, but we need that housing in all areas of Santa Fe County, not just on the south side.
Thousands of housing units are being built throughout Santa Fe — some 2,500 apparently are in the works. They aren’t without controversy, as various critics worry about the water supply, affordability, traffic, location and whether the buildings look “right” for the city.
But unless we build more places for people to live, our city will become less and less affordable.
If Santa Fe wants nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers and so many other workers to live where they work, more housing has to be a priority. That’s why the city keeps approving housing projects. It’s good to see the county join in, especially providing places people can afford.
If you build it, the point isn’t that they will come. They already are here. Now, to make sure everyone has a place to live at a price they can afford.