From the look of things, there's a lot of residential construction happening in Santa Fe.
Building permits for homes have jumped 43 percent, with 250 permits issued for new housing during the first seven months of 2018, according to city records.
Seeking to get a better picture of the scope of both the problem and potential solutions, Santa Fe has produced a map of projects that are either under construction or in the final phases of approval before being built. Twenty-three different projects dot the city, including single-family developments and multifamily complexes.
"It's good for the community because we've been hearing about all these things in the pipeline, but no one has ever seen the list and certainly no one's ever seen a map," says Kim Shanahan of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association.
Mayor Alan Webber found himself pondering the same thing, according to a city spokesman, and asked that Santa Fe's Land Use Department map out everything that was either shovel-ready or close to it.
The results are at turns impressive and discouraging.
The map, labeled with the four City Council districts, shows a divide in Santa Fe when it comes to rental housing, often referred to as multifamily development.
"Most of it is trending toward the south and west side of Santa Fe. And the equity notion that multifamily building can happen in all districts is not really playing itself out," Shanahan tells SFR.
"That's kind of a political hot potato," he offers, adding that there is a particular urgency for multifamily development.
Project management company JenkinsGavin put a fine point on that in the application for a 120-unit apartment project off Agua Fría between Siler Road and Frenchy's Field. The company says in its market analysis that "since 1993, only 176 market rate apartment units have been constructed in Santa Fe. However, Santa Fe's population has increased by 14,000 people, with an associated addition of 13,000 jobs."
The application letter goes on to estimate that more than 30,000 people work in Santa Fe, but don't live here. The annual cost to the city's bank accounts, the company says, is a whopping $300 million. Santa Fe is missing out on a major economic driver.
"It is critical to Santa Fe's economy and quality of life to provide quality rental housing in adequate supply to meet local demand," Jennifer Jenkins and architect Colleen Gavin write.
The permit curve is trending upward since a big dip after 2008, says Daniel Werwath, a development consultant and head of the New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing Corporation. But a jump in building permits isn't in itself a solution to the problem.
"We haven't rebounded to the housing production that we had pre-recession, and we really haven't had the building to keep up with the growth in population," he tells SFR. As much of a disaster as the recession was, he says Santa Fe builders went into it with a head of steam.
"We did overbuild. We had supply that we had to get rid of before we started building [again]," Werwath explains. But by the time the sluggish market cleared any excess supply, the recession had settled in and no one was building—except the wealthy. Builders noticed.
"A lot of those folks retreated into the high-end home market and it's going to take a lot to coax them out of it," he says.
He points out enthusiastically that there are older permits pulled before the recession that are just now becoming economically viable. Those numbers wouldn't be reflected in the new permit numbers or, potentially, even on the new city-made map.
City spokesman Matt Ross says the mayor would like to see more data-based mapping that can more easily and visually show the impact of Santa Fe's housing policies.
Werwath is completely on board with that approach. Sometimes, the solutions that sound the best don't deliver.
Much of the credit for the uptick in multifamily apartment permits this year—13, as opposed to zero in the same period in 2017—has been credited to a financial escape hatch for builders that allows them to pay a fee in lieu of building and renting 15 percent of their apartments for affordable housing. While it's spurred market-rate building, it hasn't bumped affordable apartment construction.
"The fee-in-lieu-of program for rentals established under the Gonzales administration has not resulted in more affordable units," Shanahan says.
Werwath goes a step further. He says the program hasn't resulted in the construction of a single affordable apartment since it went into effect in early 2016. For example, the project on Agua Fría would pay roughly $130,000 to keep its 120 apartments at market rate and more profitable for the developer, Blue Buffalo. It will certainly help ease the housing crunch overall, but it won't build units within reach of those with lower income.
Shanahan sees trouble on the horizon, too. The fee-in-lieu ordinance was a trial. It ends on the last day of 2019.
He points to the 188-home Broadstone Rodeo apartment project recently underway.
"It took them 24 months to go from the first application until they were able to break ground," he says. Just 17 months remain until the program could be shuttered. "So the sunset will put a chill on any other developers that are coming forward."
Alma Dura – 9
Estancias del Norte – 47
Marisol – 8
Calle Nopal – 4
El Camino Crossing/Corazon Santo – 64
Acequia Lofts – 120
River Trail Lofts – 32
Boies Station Condos – 18
Casa Mason – 5
Cerro del Norte – 32
Paseo del Rio – 36
Madera Apartments – 355
Gerhart Apartments – 240
Contenta Ridge – 59
Mustang Village – 48
Estancias de Las Soleras – Phase 1C – 67
Estancias de Las Soleras – 2A – 81
Estancias de Las Soleras – 2B – 77
Rufina Subdivisions – 23
Las Soleras Senior Apartments – 138
Las Soleras Station – 87
Broadstone Rodeo Apartments – 188
Ross' Peak – 182