In the October edition of The Santa Fe New Mexican’s Home Magazine, I discuss how land-planning decisions should prioritize quality housing and neighborhoods for all, not economics. Urban Sense.
Read the Article:
There are hungry and unhoused children in Santa Fe and Santa Fe County. The Food Depot’s Report to the Mayor, published June 21, 2022 (https://thefooddepot.org/blog/read-our-report-to-santa-fe-mayor-alan-webber), makes this abundantly clear.
The report, which studied how to end childhood hunger in Santa Fe, concluded that the only way to truly end food insecurity is to raise wages for their families to a living income of over $57,000 for a family of three. In other words, the report suggests that ending childhood hunger is dependent on eliminating poverty. To afford food and housing, people who live in Santa Fe need to make not $12–$15/hour as a living wage, but actually $29/hour +. Quality planning and design (i.e., livable neighborhoods with access to transportation, choices of housing, appropriate open space for the density, etc.) can make a difference for our city, but might the game-changer for providing affordable housing for working families be increased incomes for working people?
And in the meantime, Planning, with a capital P, for the next thirty years is overdue in Santa Fe. The current affordable housing supply mostly in Tierra Contenta was envisioned and planned nearly 30 years ago. Because infill projects such as Siler Yard, and other projects by agencies such as the Santa Fe Civic and County Housing Authorities providing affordable housing, appears limited because of available land within City limits, when that land is identified the entitlement process for development is onerous, and therefore expensive. Without engaging citizen planning efforts now development of housing will continue towards more sprawl, resulting in less livability, i.e. more traffic, longer commutes, increased use of petroleum products, time away from families, etc. As noted in the State of Housing Affordability 2020 Year End report by the Santa Fe Housing Coalition “We have a remarkable, award-winning infrastructure for creating affordable housing in our town”.(https://santafehousingaction.org/state-of-housing-affordability-2020-year-end/) With this infrastructure and if the City of Santa Fe also increased wages, by law and other means as the Food Depot Report recommends, everyone who works in Santa Fe could live in Santa Fe.
Through comprehensive planning the quality of growth can be affected also by addressing the expensive infrastructure that some city-owned parcels need. For example, master plans have already been created and approved for the Northwest Quadrant and the former Santa Fe Estates that can provide affordable worker housing at prices the homeowner/renter can afford (with higher wages) and the developer can build. To create housing and neighborhoods that work for everyone, land-planning decisions should be made not simply on economics, (the largest piece of land available with as many lots as possible) but on creating quality places to live for all citizens.
The Food Depot’s report concludes the key to solving child hunger is to raise incomes. The ability to afford quality housing also hinges on higher incomes. Everyone deserves to have enough to eat and a place to live. A chance to live a life free of economic-based fear —not being hungry and not knowing where they’re going to sleep that night — is a human right. It seems New Mexico’s state government doesn’t have the political will to dig in to this issue at the moment. With the federal government mired in partisanship, the City and County of Santa Fe must decide and act.
Gayla Bechtol received her architecture degrees from Harvard University and from the University of Southern California. Gayla Bechtol Architects is a design-centered architecture/urban design/historic preservation practice that has created designs for homes, institutions, and urban spaces for nearly 30 years. Bechtol practiced deep democracy while leading the citizens of Santa Fe to the award-winning Santa Fe Railyard. She is a board member of Friends of Architecture Santa Fe.