Zine focuses on affordability
A MAGAZINE DELINEATING AFFORDABLE-HOUSING NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES IN SANTA FE COUNTY was described as “probing and comprehensive” by the jury chairman for the 2014 design awards of the American Institute of Architects-Santa Fe. “We were not sure if this is ongoing or a stand-alone, and we didn’t care,” said Alan Chimacoff of the Homework magazine produced by a team led by Suby Bowden + Associates. “It is essentially a road map to afford the creation of high-quality, affordable architecture for housing and that is a very very noble undertaking.”
Chimacoff said the study inspires an understanding “that in fact affordable housing doesn’t have to be cheap and bad but in fact it can contribute urbanistically to the quality of the architecture of the environment.”
Bowden said the document was born out of a 2006 Santa Fe County request for proposals to study sites and pick one as an investment target for affordable-housing funds from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development. “We responded and in our interviews we learned that the county has no housing-needs assessment. That was the first thing we did.”
The assessment was based on surveys done by RRCAssociates, Denver. Then Bowden did a chart that looked at ownership and rentals, as well as special populations including the pueblos and the homeless. “What was a huge discovery was that the HUD requirements you have to follow for financing and that both the city and county had requiredwas for 3- and 4-bedroom homes, but over 60 percent of the people in Santa Fe County are in a one-bedroom situation: it’s just one or two people. So the county’s affordable-housing program shifted in what types of developments they would encourage and require, as well as working up to a dialogue with HUD that the requirements should match local needs, not needs defined inWashington, D.C.”
After interviews with more than 200 people, the firm studied 58 sites and assessed them for appropriateness on a matrix of factors including size, schools, zoning types, infrastructure, proximity to transportation, and water availability. They prioritized four sites: the county’s former PublicWorks Department site on Galisteo Road; a site in Agua Fria Village that belonged to Olivia Tsosie, whowas willing to donate it to the county; the large San Cristobal site on N.M. 14 that is owned by the State Land Office; and Rancho Viejo— Bowden said Ike Pino, who was managing the development at that time, loved the idea of a senior housing project on the Rancho Viejo plaza. Bowden’s team took the Galisteo site, ran it through the matrix, and developed a 120-unit, mixed-income, mixed ownership (owners/renters) housing project. She realized they needed to create a magazine to make all the information they had assembled accessible.
In the magazine’s introductory article, writer Zane Fischer states that home prices in the county had escalated out of proportion with wage increases. “This magazine,” he writes, “is dedicated to helping residents of Santa Fe County find and afford their own safe haven. (It) lays out a set of principles to guide housing strategy, including the tenet that ‘the entire community including residents, businesses and government have the responsibility to work together to address housing needs.”
Among the book’s seven essays are pieces by Dodie Salazar, who grew up inmobile homes and at the time of the study headed the Santa Fe County Housing Authority; Ed Rosenthal of Enterprise Community Partners New Mexico; and Tim Vigil, who spent eight years building his house with his family.
The jurors for the award praised the graphics and strong headings, among them E=MC2 for “An Affordable House”, Neighborhoods, Reducing Land Costs, and Innovative Design. The latter chapter offers efficient and cool-looking affordable-house types by Aaron Bohrer, Vahid Mojarrab, Lorn Tryk, and several other architects. The magazine closes with a community directory of the scores of local organizations offering housing assistance and counseling.
Homework: A User’s Guide to Housing Affordability in Santa Fe County came out in late 2008, just as the national economy was crashing and nobody could get a loan. “I recently metwith Santa Fe County on this and they still think the economy is not stable enough to get the loans they need,” Bowden said in December. “I was recently approached by St. Elizabeth Shelter and I introduced them to this package and said there are still some major developments here that could help the homeless. There are 13,000 homeless veterans in Northern New Mexico.”
Bowden said about 40,000 people in the county have received copies of Homework. “We keep distributing these magazines, to just keep reminding people there are things you can do.”