February 10, 2022 –
Santa Fe has never been afraid to be different. Historically an accessible, creative, affordable community, Santa Fe is changing, making it unaffordable for our young people, in spite of a creative revitalization led by young artists, entrepreneurs and innovators.
Further, over half of our core workforce — teachers, nurses, firefighters and others — commute to the city every day, often not by choice. Housing affordability is one of the key factors determining not only who comes to our community but also who gets to stay, participate and contribute.
Just three weeks ago, The New Mexican reported that median home prices in Santa Fe surpassed $600,000. And while this price surge of nearly 30 percent over the past year is part of a national macroeconomic trend, the tools to deconstruct barriers to homeownership, increase access to affordable rental units and create vibrant neighborhoods are found at the local level. Advancing housing affordability begins with a broad community embrace of building new homes that are accessible to our young people, creatives and workforce.
I am privileged to live in Santa Fe and benefit from our trails, parks and open spaces. Across the street from my home, I enjoy Alto Street Park and cheer on the development of new affordable housing adjacent to it. Rather than perpetuate urban sprawl by building into pristine open space surrounding our city, Habitat for Humanity and the innovative local builder B.PUBLIC are leveraging a strategy called “urban infill” — adapting vacant, underutilized lots within our existing neighborhoods. Their homes will be highly sustainable, locally built and contribute to our neighborhood’s beauty.
Homewise is another local organization that has been leading efforts on housing affordability for decades. They are refining plans to create over 160 new homes — all under current median home prices and over half meeting the city’s affordability targets — through urban infill near South Meadows Drive. The plan also includes the creation of a new public asset — a 6-acre park — for play and gathering. And while many neighbors support this effort, others oppose it, arguing it is destroying “open space.”
Unfortunately, opposition efforts to advancing housing affordability in Santa Fe are often successful when the arguments of the few outweigh the needs and desires of the many. I could oppose affordable housing development in my own neighborhood, arguing it is “destroying open space,” creating more traffic or, in less coded terms, “bringing crime.”
Instead, I embrace the fact we need to create equitable opportunities for wealth creation through homeownership, invite diversity into our neighborhoods and be brave in the face of change. Santa Fe has never been afraid to be different, why should we act differently now?