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City’s Ladd: Santa Fe building ‘momentum’ on housing

SANTA FE – “I’ve never seen as much momentum and concern behind affordable housing” as today, Alexandra Ladd, director of the city’s Office of Affordable Housing, told members of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association at a luncheon Thursday.

During her presentation, Ladd outlined a three-option plan that city has proposed to take the place of its current “inclusionary” zoning scheme, which allows developers to pay a fee instead of setting aside 15% of units for affordable housing. Existing provisions allowing the “fee-in-lieu” system went into effect in 2016 and will expire at the end of the year.

The purpose was to jump-start multifamily housing, Ladd said, and the plan worked. Today there are 1,183 multifamily units under construction, permitted or starting to lease in the city, with another 800 in the approval process, she said. The construction spurt since 2016 followed a decade when no market-rate multifamily housing was built in Santa Fe, Ladd said.

Since the city began offering the fee-in-lieu option, it has collected $700,000 and another $500,000 is committed. “We’re not moving mountains, but we are moving molehills,” Ladd said.

Under the city’s new proposal, developers can still opt to pay fees in lieu of setting aside 15% of their units for affordable housing, but fees will increase from current rates by 20% a year over five years. The other two options available to developers of multifamily housing are building a 100% low-priced units or setting aside 15% of the units for affordable housing.

Along with the push to get a new inclusionary zoning policy in place by the end of the year, the city plans to hold a public open house for four city-owned sites that will be donated or sold at reduced prices to developers who build affordable multifamily units according to city guidelines, Ladd said.

The largest of the four parcels, at West Zia Road and Yucca Street, could house 100 units, she said. The other three parcels together could generate another 100 units, Ladd said. “We plan to hold the open house before the holidays,” she said.

In a telephone interview, Ladd said her office wants to work in partnership with developers to spur the construction of more affordable housing.

Coming in January, she said, are “sweeteners” that will be offered through the city’s Land Use Department to developers of multifamily housing, including expedited processing.

Ladd encouraged developers and the public to express their opinions as the three-option inclusionary zoning proposal moves through committees to a final City Council Public Hearing on Dec. 11. “Don’t wait until the last minute to make your views known,” she told her audience.