All New Housing Helps Affordability In Santa Fe

Dec 10, 2020

Santa Fe developers have plans to build almost 400 apartments and townhomes on about 20 acres of vacant land next to the Zia Road Railrunner station. To garner city approval some of the housing must rent below market rate. But there is an option for builders to pay into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund instead.

On its face a requirement for developers to include some affordable housing seems like a win for a city where rent and home prices have skyrocketed. An option to opt-out by paying a fee then seems dubious – but that’s what most developers in Santa Fe are doing. Affordable housing advocates say not to jump to conclusions.

Justin Robison from the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust says pressure on Santa Fe’s housing starts at the top as wealthier people buy less expensive homes because there isn’t much else available.

“If they can’t get the housing they want, then that wealthy person will buy a more moderately priced home,” Robison explained. “That person then displaces the next person down the list.”

Robison says all new home building eases displacement across the board by disrupting the downward cascade of buyers.

Homewise CEO Mike Loftin also helps New Mexicans with home ownership. He says the impact of developers building higher priced homes doesn’t always trickle down to benefit those in the lowest tiers. Still, he likes when builders choose to pay into the affordable housing fund because it benefits the community in other ways.

Loftin described some of the ways the fund can be used that are housing related. “It could be an emergency rental voucher for someone who’s at risk for being homeless, or is fleeing domestic violence. It could be to build new rental units somewhere. It could be for downpayment assistance,” he said.

For now, best estimates show Santa Fe needs about 5,000 more affordable homes, while median home prices topped $500,000 in the county for the first time last summer.