As New Mexico continues to evaluate the social and economic landscape resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the already existing social and economic inequities in our State have not only become clear, but are being exacerbated as a result. Prior to the pandemic, housing affordability was an already urgent crisis in New Mexico. At full employment, over 100,000 New Mexico renter families were paying unaffordable rents, with over 6,000 families impacted in Santa Fe alone. Yet the Federal government is only providing about 20% of the resources needed to address the larger structural housing affordability problems in our state.
As state and local governments face substantial revenue losses due to the health and subsequent economic crisis, State and Local Governments, public agencies, philanthropy, and the private sector will very likely have the perception that there is a limited ability to dedicate additional resources toward affordable housing, just when they are most needed. This echoes mistakes made during the Great Recession, when austerity ruled and housing assistance came too late to stop the cascade of economic consequences.
We must not lose sight of the incredibly high cost of not investing in basic housing security for all New Mexicans. Housing instability leads to many, much more costly interventions that range from rehousing, to health care, education, and public safety that all impact the broader economy.
As policymakers and the public become more aware of the social costs created by housing instability, there is a unique opportunity to address long-standing gaps in the social safety net. Achieving meaningful reductions in housing insecurity will require more resources—and more thoughtful strategies—from public agencies, philanthropy, and private capital. And as we learned in 2009, austerity when it comes to housing is a disaster.
We are currently facing an unprecedented housing crisis that is most acutely impacting undocumented populations. But this is just the beginning of a much larger housing crisis that will come when Federal unemployment assistance and mortgage forbearance programs expire.
As such, we believe that elected officials and policymakers have an urgent responsibility to proactively address the housing crisis in Santa Fe and New Mexico at large, and to protect and preserve existing affordable housing from physical deterioration and financial instability.
Proactive steps must be taken now in order to address the growing housing crisis.
- Spending CARES act funds wisely, keeping the focus on the most economically vulnerable households and those not receiving assistance through other programs;
- Ensuring that, at a minimum, current housing resource levels remain consistent or grow as the City makes budget decisions;
- Providing legal assistance resources for those facing eviction or foreclosure;
- Increasing funding for direct emergency rental and foreclosure prevention assistance to families;
- Increasing the construction of new long-term affordable rental housing and homeownership opportunities, especially in high-opportunity communities;
- Protecting existing affordable rental housing from physical deterioration and financial insecurity;
- Identifying and securing a permanent revenue source for the City of Santa Fe Housing Trust fund;
- Changing long-standing policies that have not allowed State allocations of Community Development Block Grant funding to be used for eligible housing activities;
- Repurposeing existing allocation of Federal HOME funds and other MFA funding programs to address urgent consumer housing need.
Each of these goals is critical to supporting affordable housing infrastructure in Santa Fe and the State of New Mexico. The Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition is focused on ensuring these necessary steps are taken and cross-sector collaborations occur to ensure the well-being of our communities.