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Cuts to bonds risk housing revitalization

Despite the moon rising over the newly renovated Luna Lodge at 9119 Central NE, and the sun shining on the Sundowner Motel renovation under way at 6101 Central NE, the sun may be setting on future revitalization projects in Albuquerque if the city goes forward with the proposed 83 percent reduction in general obligation bond funding for affordable housing.

The Sundowner and Luna projects represent the best in public/private partnerships, involving multiple agencies and funding sources working collaboratively to bring much-needed development to Albuquerque’s vibrant International District. Together these two projects brought in more than $10 million of private investment and sustainable (green) tax credits to purchase historic, low-income housing, money that otherwise would not have come to New Mexico. In addition, competitive grants were awarded from the state housing agency (NMMFA), the City of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Environment Department, HUD, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas.

NAME: John Bloomfield
TITLE: Executive director
ORGANIZATION: NewLife Homes, Albuquerque

City support has been central to the success of Albuquerque’s affordable-housing projects since the general obligation bond was introduced in 2006, not just as gap funding, but also as a catalyst for investor commitment. We often hear that “if the city is prepared to be a stakeholder, so will we.”

Unfortunately, future projects such as these are at risk under the city’s proposed new capital budget. The budget requires hard choices about the allocation of scarce resources and this year has 30 percent less to allocate. We support the principle of “shared pain,” which would mean a 30 percent reduction in affordable housing funds.

Belt-tightening is expected and fair, but radical surgery to the order of 83 percent is unfair, and would stall affordable housing in the city precisely at a time when other municipalities in the state such as Hobbs are competing for investor dollars and are increasing their investment in affordable housing. It is much easier to keep private investors, much more difficult to bring them back if they’ve gone cold on the city due to a radical reduction in city funding for affordable housing.

The track record of the projects assisted by the city’s general obligation bonds has been impressive – nationally recognized projects that put Albuquerque on the affordable housing map. They include Silver Gardens; projects with the highest level of energy efficiency (NLH4); projects that have won state design competitions (Sawmill); and projects that have provided badly needed housing opportunities close to work and public transportation (700 2nd). Other projects have been demonstration projects of urban infill (Plaza Felipe), adaptive reuse of blighted structures (Sundowner), and in the case of Luna Lodge, a model for adaptive reuse of a blighted historic Route 66 motel, of which Albuquerque has several.

Working closely with the city and state Historic Preservation Office, NewLife’s architect, Garrett Smith, was able to preserve the building’s historic details that are characteristic of the Route 66 motels, but also achieve the highest level of energy efficiency and sustainability – LEED Platinum.

In an era of construction pullback and tight funding, these projects have given the city a needed tax and employment boost, and added significant value for neighborhoods experiencing static or declining property values. All general obligation bond-funded projects have increased adjacent property values and helped support local businesses.

The economic impact of affordable housing has been quantified in numerous national studies such as the 2011 Ohio Housing Trust Fund for homeless and affordable housing, which concluded that every $1 spent on affordable housing by the state had an impact of $14.54 on Ohio’s economy. It would be difficult to find an investment with those kinds of returns.

Apart from the leverage effect and fiscal impact, affordable housing showcases Albuquerque as a city that cares about its more vulnerable fellow residents. The mayor’s well-publicized homeless housing initiative, “Albuquerque Heading Home,” has received national attention as a model for housing the city’s most vulnerable.

Less well known is that many of the nonprofits awarded general obligation bond funding have been serving this population for decades. There may be “buyer’s remorse” if this important community resource is significantly cut.
Cuts to bonds risk housing revitalizationNAME: John BloomfieldTITLE: Executive directorORGANIZATION: NewLife Homes, Albuquerquejournal fileJohn Bloomfield, executive director of NewLife Homes, says affordable housing revitalization deserves bond funding.



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