Homewisdom, a new research and public policy initiative from Homewise that provides data, insights, and policy recommendations to help advance homeownership, convened a panel of New Mexico thought leaders to discuss how increasing access to affordable housing can help the state combat climate change.


The discussion featured experts discussing the effect of climate change in New Mexico, the affordable housing crisis in New Mexico and nationwide, the climate impacts of sprawl and “drive until you qualify” real estate development, as well as barriers, including planning, zoning, and NIMBYism, to sustainably expanding the supply of affordable housing in New Mexico.


You can watch a full recording of the discussion here, or read excerpts below.


“Housing justice and climate justice are inextricably linked,” said Kelly O’Donnell, Homewisdom Director. “Equity demands that manageable commutes and walkable neighborhoods be available to all, not just those who can afford to live in downtown Santa Fe.”


“When one aspect of our community does better, we all do better,” said Camilla Feibelman, Executive Director of the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club. “Planning for affordable housing and transportation is going to make our communities more vibrant, more productive for everyone, and better for the climate.”


Panelists also discussed how local development policies and processes intended to give all community residents a voice in development decisions have been co-opted by a vocal minority of well-to-do homeowners to prevent the development of affordable housing in their backyards, even when that housing is supported and needed by the majority of community members.  “What that ends up being is people who look like me, people at the upper end of the economic scale, are participating fully in meetings about affordable housing, and we don’t hear from others,“ said Tammy Fiebelkorn, Albuquerque City Councilor for District 7. “We get to this point where one person’s desire for a single family expensive neighborhood does not actually trump someone else’s right for affordable housing. We’re just going to have to, as government entities, figure out what we need to change locally to really invite participation from everyone.”


“In Santa Fe, we have a few options,” said Johanna Gilligan, Senior Director of Community Development for Homewise. “We can build up, we can build out, or we can not build housing. Those are the range of options we have. We have to think about the best possible outcome for the majority of people within that context, and for the environment within that context.”