Santa Fe, NM – The Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition has been awarded a two-year grant totaling over $330,000 to pursue systemic policy changes to respond to the worsening affordable housing crisis in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The new approach to funding, dubbed the “Collaborative Zone Grant,” combined funding from multiple local foundations to deepen impact in the affordable housing sector. Funders included the Santa Fe Community Foundation, McCune Charitable Foundation, Nusenda Credit Union, and Anchorum St. Vincent.
The proposal from the Housing Action Coalition will launch a two-year campaign focused on creating a dedicated $3 million annual investment for the City of Santa Fe’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, promoting land use reforms that lead to increased housing availability, producing an annual report on the state of housing in Santa Fe, while also responding to emerging housing policy issues as they arise.
“The current housing problem is really two-fold, on the one hand, we need to dramatically increase the amount of income-restricted housing for very low-income working families, the elderly, and disabled, while also working to create new market rate housing opportunities to ease the supply/demand imbalance that is increasingly impacting moderate-income working families,” said Daniel Werwath, Executive Director of New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing, who helped bring the coalition together two years ago.
Santa Fe has a very strong history of innovative responses to affordable housing issues, but we are lagging behind in the current housing crisis. Market rate rental rates have increased over 50% since 2014, and affordable rental housing in Santa Fe remains at a functional 100% occupancy. Local service providers report having hundreds of families on waiting lists for affordable units or rental housing vouchers. Recent data provided by the US Census Bureau indicates that over 86% of renter families with incomes below $50,000 a year are currently paying more than 30% of their income on housing, what the federal government considers “cost burdened.” This number has increased from 73% in just one year. The tightening housing market has contributed to the loss of over 1,000 families earning below $35,000 a year from our community between 2016 and 2018. This rapid loss of working families has dramatic impacts, with the Chamber of Commerce citing lack of housing as the primary issue impacting hiring and retention for their members. Housing insecurity is also proving a major challenge for local social service providers.
“Housing insecurity underlies so many of the larger social issues community organizations are working to address in Santa Fe” said Melynn Schuyler, Executive Director of ¡YouthWorks!, a youth alternative education nonprofit. “If we can solve the housing problem, it really puts us on much better footing to be able to address other social problems in our community.”
Creating a permanent source of funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which has received sporadic funding since its inception in 2005, was one of the top recommendations on the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing and Livable Neighborhoods.
“We have a strong track record of responding to housing issues in Santa Fe” said Mike Loftin, Executive Director of Homewise “it’s critical that we dedicate a level of resources that rise to the scale of the housing problem we are currently facing.”
Loftin who co-chaired the Mayor’s task force along with Carol Luna-Anderson from The Lifelink, said the group estimated that $3,000,000 in annual funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would roughly double the amount of affordable housing created annually, enough to make a significant impact toward shrinking the need gap between affordable units and the large amount of families on waiting lists for housing.
The work of the Coalition builds on two successful policy initiatives in 2019 that engaged a growing pro-housing constituency to advocate for policy change at the local level. These included updates to the code regulating accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as ADUs or casitas, as well as long-term updates to the City’s Inclusionary Zoning program that increased the ability for market rate developers to include income-restricted housing in new development projects.
The Coalition expects that with these new resources and the unprecedented alignment of groups working toward shared goals around housing, we will see another period of innovation akin to accomplishments in the early 1990’s. That work led to the creation of inclusionary zoning as well as large community supported affordable housing projects like Tierra Contena.
“This is really the first time we have seen this type of broad collaboration around shared housing goals in a couple decades, when we established many of the affordable housing programs that brought national recognition for Santa Fe,” said Joseph Montoya, Director of the Santa Fe County Housing Authority and a key figure in the City’s first push for affordable housing.
The first work of the Coalition will be to hire a full-time director to lead the project and conduct strategic planning for the upcoming policy advocacy campaign. For more information visit: www.santafehousingaction.org/