Land trust model pro­posed for mid­town cam­pus

Groups call for hous­ing on and around prop­erty to be af­ford­able and, partly by lim­it­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, to stay that way

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniel J. Chacón dcha­con@sfnewmex­i­

As the city of Santa Fe plans for de­vel­op­ment of the mid­town cam­pus, a coali­tion of or­ga­ni­za­tions is ad­vo­cat­ing for the study of a model the group says would re­sult in “per­ma­nently af­ford­able hous­ing” at the site and limit gen­tri­fi­ca­tion in sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods.

A re­port the coali­tion re­leased Wed­nes­day rec­om­mends the city con­sider cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity land trust at the for­mer col­lege cam­pus on St. Michael’s Drive “and other forms of col­lec­tive stew­ard­ship to help sta­bi­lize hous­ing in Santa Fe.”

The City Coun­cil in May voted to be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions with Dal­las-based KDC Real Es­tate De­vel­op­ment & In­vest­ments/Cienda Part­ners for what is ex­pected to be a

years­long re­de­vel­op­ment project at the 64-acre prop­erty.

KDC/Cienda is work­ing with 17 New Mex­ico part­ners, most from Santa Fe, on cre­at­ing plans for the site that in­clude an ex­pan­sion of film stu­dios, ed­u­ca­tional fa­cil­i­ties, a health clinic and af­ford­able hous­ing.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Web­ber has said the af­ford­able hous­ing com­po­nent is crit­i­cal at the cam­pus, though de­tails for how much hous­ing will be built at the site — and how many units will be of­fered be­low mar­ket rates — will be part of ne­go­ti­a­tions through­out the year.

The new re­port, writ­ten by the eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice or­ga­ni­za­tion Chain­breaker Col­lec­tive in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the New Mex­ico Health Eq­uity Part­ner­ship and Cal­i­for­nia-based Hu­man Im­pact Part­ners, en­cour­ages the city to con­sider the land trust model to en­sure lower-cost hous­ing con­structed at the cam­pus — and even off-cam­pus ar­eas nearby — re­mains af­ford­able for years to come.

“The ar­eas sur­round­ing the mid­town cam­pus are some of the most densely pop­u­lated by peo­ple of color and low-in­come peo­ple in Santa Fe,” the re­port says. “Some of these neigh­bor­hoods, such as Hopewell/Mann, also have a his­tory of dis­in­vest­ment, leav­ing them vul­ner­a­ble to dis­place­ment and health risks from gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.”

The re­port de­scribes a com­mu­nity land trust as an or­ga­ni­za­tion — of­ten a non­profit — that pro­vides stew­ard­ship over tracts of land with the in­tent of mak­ing hous­ing and com­mu­nity needs ac­ces­si­ble to low- and mod­er­ate-in­come fam­i­lies.

Af­ter an in­di­vid­ual or fam­ily buys a home that’s part of a res­i­den­tial land trust, the re­port says, the home­owner leases the land from the trust, of­ten un­der a 99-year re­new­able lease. “If the home­owner wants to sell the home, they agree to sell at an af­ford­able price to pay it for­ward.”

A com­mu­nity land trust be­lieved to be the first was founded in Ge­or­gia in 1969. It was de­vel­oped to pro­vide farm­land for Black fam­i­lies who were forced from their land for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the civil rights move­ment, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

New Mex­ico also has ex­pe­ri­ence with a land trust model.

Al­bu­querque is home to the na­tion­ally rec­og­nized Sawmill Com­mu­nity Land Trust, which “of­fers af­ford­able homes and apart­ments, com­mer­cial spa­ces for small busi­ness own­ers, and re­sources for the com­mu­nity right here in New Mex­ico,” the re­port says.

Tomás Rivera, di­rec­tor of the Santa Fe-based Chain­breaker Col­lec­tive, said com­mu­nity out­reach spear­headed by his or­ga­ni­za­tion and oth­ers last sum­mer re­vealed res­i­dents’ top pri­or­ity is main­tain­ing com­mu­nity con­trol over the mid­town prop­erty, as well as the de­vel­op­ment process. He said a com­mu­nity land trust is “prob­a­bly the best way of do­ing it.”

“Our top con­cern here is mak­ing sure that the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods are pro­tected against dis­place­ment,” he said, re­fer­ring to gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

“There could be some sort of model in which we look at us­ing the prop­erty it­self to help fund some de­vel­op­ment or ac­qui­si­tion of land in the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods and use those as land trusts,” he said.

The re­port asks the city to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of such a model, he added. “We’re not re­ally hand­ing this re­port and say­ing, ‘This is what should hap­pen on the en­tire cam­pus.’ We’re say­ing, ‘This should be part of the con­ver­sa­tion.’ ”

The city cre­ated an emer­gency shel­ter on the mid­town prop­erty in the early months of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic to help pre­vent the virus’s spread among mem­bers of the home­less com­mu­nity and oth­ers who needed a place to iso­late. The 14-page re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day rec­om­mends the city con­tinue to pro­vide sup­port­ive ser­vices there.

In its so-called re­quest for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est in the mid­town prop­erty, the city said it was open to land-use mod­els or other forms of own­er­ship “to achieve the pub­lic’s eq­ui­table and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals,” Kris­tine Mi­hel­cic, the city’s coun­cil and con­stituent ser­vices di­rec­tor, said in an email.

While no land trust mod­els were pro­posed, Mi­hel­cic said such a con­cept will be con­sid­ered as the pro­posed re­de­vel­op­ment moves for­ward.

The city will “al­ways have a com­mit­ment to any own­er­ship mod­els that en­sure af­ford­abil­ity and sta­bil­ity for Santa Fe com­mu­ni­ties most at risk of dis­place­ment,” she wrote.

Alexan­dra Ladd, di­rec­tor of the city’s Of­fice of Af­ford­able Hous­ing, said in an email com­mu­nity land trusts are be­com­ing more of a vi­able op­tion in the hous­ing mar­ket. She cited ad­van­tages noted in the new re­port, such as per­pet­ual af­ford­abil­ity and com­mu­nity con­trol.

“There are some chal­lenges, how­ever, in­clud­ing the need for long-term stew­ard­ship of the trust,” Ladd wrote. “Trusts are typ­i­cally man­aged via a non­profit, col­lab­o­ra­tive own­er­ship struc­ture that re­quires a fairly high level of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and dura­bil­ity in or­der to man­age the as­sets in per­pe­tu­ity.”

Ladd also said the mid­town cam­pus is a “com­plex project” where mar­ket-rate uses will have to gen­er­ate enough rev­enue to sup­port or sub­si­dize pub­lic uses.

“I think it would be a tough place to use ex­clu­sively a land trust de­vel­op­ment model,” she wrote. “The Sawmill Land Trust in [Al­bu­querque] has fig­ured it out but also shown that it takes a long time to cre­ate the ca­pac­ity to be fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able.”

Cur­rently, she said, Santa Fe doesn’t have an or­ga­ni­za­tion that could de­velop hous­ing and other fa­cil­i­ties at the mid­town cam­pus and man­age a land trust.

Ladd said she would be in­ter­ested in fig­ur­ing out how the city could sup­port the con­ver­sion of ex­ist­ing prop­er­ties, such as sub­si­dized rental com­plexes, into co-op own­er­ship.

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