All 87 affordable housing units are finally ready as living spaces at Soleras Station—nearly three years after the Santa Fe City Council first agreed to a plan in tandem with a nearby home developer and a nonprofit.

City officials have an RSVP-only ribbon-cutting event open to the public and residents planned for Oct. 3 with Mayor Alan Webber, a tour and a buffet for 200 to celebrate the three-phase project's completion. The first group of buildings opened to residents in May, and the second shortly after that, according to Justin Robison, executive director of The Housing Trust, the nonprofit managers.

The development is unique.

The project features rent-controlled apartments and income restrictions—of the 87 units, just 14 are leased at market rate. Most significantly, the other 73 are for people with special needs, ranging from transitioning from homelessness to mental and physical disabilities.

And it's already full with a waiting list.

On site, there's a worker who advocates for the residents with special needs.

That means coordinating "classes and seminars, [being] an advocate for the residents; if somebody is short on cash, they go to the food bank for them, reach out to different organizations to help them make rent," Robison tells SFR.

The site also has a community building that offers homebuyer training classes, financial literacy classes, afterschool activities, GED classes, health fairs and fitness classes. An adjacent city park is also nearly complete.

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit project requires city and developers to use data and measurements from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to decide the rental rates. For Soleras Station, officials used Santa Fe's Area Median Income. The income levels used to determine whether someone is eligible for one of the apartments are percentages of that AMI figure: Any household income at or below 80% of the AMI is considered "low-income."

So what do affordable rents look like in Santa Fe?

According to Robison, the lowest rents can be less than $300 a month. A one-bedroom apartment at the lowest AMI is $251 per month, a two-bedroom is $295 per month and a three-bedroom is $372 per month.

At the highest AMI, a one-bedroom is $641, a two-bedroom $763 and a three-bedroom is $871. The market units with no income restrictions range from $1,069 to $1,406 per month.

Sixteen units are rent-limited for households at the lowest AMI, 29 units are rent-limited for households at the middle AMI and 28 units are rent-limited for households at the highest AMI.

There are two other similar developments in the city developed by The Housing Trust—Stage Coach Apartments and Village Sage—but Soleras Station marks the first time The Housing Trust has combined market rates in the unit mix. Both Stage Coach and Village Sage have 60 units that are 100% affordable.

Between the three developments, 48 units total are specifically for people transitioning out of homelessness, with 18 of them at Soleras.

Robison says the 48 units make a "real dent in addressing our city's commitment to ending homelessness."

The Life Link, a nonprofit that helps people struggling with homelessness, is in charge of the process of leasing apartments to those with special needs, which differs from how people who are income-restricted get leases.

For people transitioning from homelessness or with other special needs, The Life Link conducts a lottery from the pool of applicants. For those only facing income restrictions or market-rate renters, it's on a first-come, first-served basis. But using that model would not be "fair" to those with special needs, according to Robison.

Despite this development, there is still a significant waiting list for the chance to be chosen from the lottery.

"We're already over-subscribed," Robison says. "The lottery was maybe two or three times oversubscribed for special needs. Once the word is out there, we have a very large potential list that exceeds the number of units."

The opportunity for Soleras Station came about because developers PulteGroup, Inc. wanted to build 300 houses in a single-family project, Las Soleras, which sits west of Soleras Station. The company sought to avoid the inclusion of affordable units, according to Alexandra Ladd, director of the city's Office of Affordable Housing. The City Council approved the plan via a 2016 resolution.

Pulte transferred ownership of the 4.5-acre parcel of land to The Housing Trust, and also brought water, electricity, cable and sewer to the site, Ladd tells SFR.

"Pulte proposed an alternate compliance," Ladd says, which is allowed under the Santa Fe Homes Program ordinance. "Instead of producing affordable home-owner units in their project they proposed to buy the multi-family parcel and donate it for affordable housing. …They did not want to include affordable units on site. They claimed it wasn't financially feasible."

SOLERAS STATION RIBBON CUTTING
10:30 am to 1:00 pm Oct. 3,
4804 Rail Runner Road.
RSVP to Denise Benavidez, 989-3960.