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Funding up in air for affordable housing project in Santa Fe

SANTA FE – A proposal for the city to spend $400,000 on infrastructure and street improvements to help complete a 60-unit affordable housing project specifically intended as a place for artists to live and work passed the Finance Committee on a 4-0 vote on Monday with no clear source for the funding determined.

City staff and the New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing Corp., a group that works with other nonprofits and developers on affordable housing projects, say the funding will make it easier for the Arts + Creativity Center to secure low-income housing tax credits from the state. If approved by the state Mortgage Finance Authority, Inter-Faith Corp. will be eligible for $8 million worth of Low Income Housing Tax Credits and $3 million in mortgage financing on what is a $14 million project.

Inter-Faith Housing is facing a Feb. 13 deadline to submit its application but is asking for a commitment from the city to make the chances of approval more viable.

While committee members expressed support for the project, they also noted that the city has already invested millions of dollars in the project by donating land near the city’s fleet maintenance yard on Siler Road and waiving land use fees. Committee members learned Monday that making way for the infrastructure improvements would cost the city another $200,000, the bulk of it to move a structure and membrane that keeps road salt from causing environmental contamination.

Committee members were also wary of the tight deadline.

“This is at the last minute,” said Carmichael Dominguez, chairman of the committee. “It would be nice to have a little more time, but we don’t.”

The proposal currently calls for the city to use $200,000 from the water/waste water fund, and another $200,000 from the gas tax bond. While the money from the water/wastewater fund is available, the gas bond money was characterized as a “placeholder” on the application until another funding source is identified.

Committee members talked about using other sources of funding, including the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a Community Development Block Grant, the Tierra Contenta housing development, or funding in the capital improvement budget.

The proposal will be heard by the Public Works Committee next Monday and is scheduled to come before the full city Council on Jan. 31.