Well over half of the people working in Santa Fe have to live elsewhere due to the city’s higher housing costs, while of those who have remained, some 6,000 individual households are spending more than half of their monthly income on rent.
Those are two of the findings of a report put together by an advisory group and officially presented to the Santa Fe City Council, looking at the growing issue of housing affordability in New Mexico’s fourth largest city.
The Affordable Housing and Livable Neighborhoods Advisory Group was appointed earlier in the year by Mayor Alan Webber and tasked with looking at the full dimensions of the housing problem and suggesting possible solutions.
Although earlier attempts in the city have been made to make more affordable housing available, says the report, the problem in Santa Fe “has gotten worse in recent years, negatively affecting the well-being of families, neighborhoods, and the economy.”
Entitled Strengthening Households and Neighborhoods by Supporting a Healthy Housing Spectrum, the document bluntly characterizes the city’s housing availability as a crisis, adding that “Hundreds of Santa Feans are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.”
The report specifically notes that in the category of rental space for working poor or low-income families, Santa Fe needs a minimum of 5,000 units that currently don’t exist.
Just under half of that number, it is recommended, should target those with household incomes of less than $25,000 annually.
The report additionally suggests that the city’s inclusionary zoning program should be updated in order to spur the construction of more “income-appropriate” rental units; and that public land be used for affordable apartment construction.
Also recommended: incentivizing new housing development through simplified and expedited land use review, and altering the Santa Fe’s land use code in order to allow for higher density infill subdivisions that could see both single-family home and multi-unit rental housing.
Santa Fe would also do well, the report suggests, by following the lead of other cities in setting up an annual affordable housing trust fund.
Providing a wider availability of affordable housing options, the report suggests, would also help to address another issue confronting Santa Fe: homelessness.
But what Santa Fe needs more than anything else, the report maintains, is additional apartment space, noting that a shortage of market-rate rental units is “pushing up the rental rates across the price spectrum and putting pressure on families with lower incomes who are in the same market for the available supply.”
By Garry Boulard
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