By Tom Sharpe| The New Mexican Posted: Friday, February 24, 2012. This article is syndicated from The New Mexican, for a complete copy of the original article, click here.
The recent economic recession has made Santa Fe housing more affordable, says a report released Friday by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors.
“For the first time in years,” the report says, Santa Fe’s median household income is enough to qualify for the purchase of a median-priced home.
“The market rates of homes have declined which does, unfortunately, negatively affect current homeowners’ investments,” it says, “yet the result is a larger number of affordably priced homes in Santa Fe.”
The report, 2011 Affordable Housing in Santa Fe, cites how the economic collapse in late 2008 led to the loss of 4,600 jobs, increased unemployment rates, poverty rates and foreclosure rates while decreasing median incomes.
But the recession caused the median price of reported real-estate sales to drop from an all-time high of $425,000 in 2007 to $330,000 for the third quarter of 2011, says the report.
“There are a considerable number of re-sale homes on the open market at low prices that were unimaginable a few short years ago,” it says. In addition to the lower median prices, the report notes that prevailing interest rates also have fallen, although lenders have become stricter in qualifying borrowers, sometimes requiring larger down payments than before.
The report says that even though there is little residential building under way in Santa Fe, nonprofits have been able to pull together funding from federal sources, grants and tax credits to increase the number of affordable-housing units:
110 units at the Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority’s new Villa Alegre compound;
60 rental units for the Housing Trust’s Village Sage;
60 rental units at the old Stage Coach Inn on Cerrillos Road have been approved for the Housing Trust;
Habitat for Humanity has acquired eight townhouse lots and has started construction on four townhouses.
The report was researched and written by Jeri Chenelle, a former government-affairs officer for the Realtors Association of New Mexico, with funding by the state association and the National Association of Realtors.
Victoria Murphy, president-elect of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors and an associate broker at Santa Fe Properties, said the idea for the affordable-housing study began when the city proposed a 1 percent “transfer tax” on the sale of homes priced at $750,000 and up. Voters rejected the tax in 2009.
“Obviously, as Realtors, we were in opposition to that, but we did come to [the city] and say, ‘Look, we understand that there is a need here,’ and in that, we found out that at times the city didn’t know how many affordable homes they actually had,” she said. “So our thing was, ‘Let’s find a way that we can have a database that we can find out exactly what’s out there and what the needs are.’ ”
Murphy said her biggest surprise was finding out how many “stakeholders” are involved in affordable housing — not only the nonprofit housing groups, but also the many construction companies that specialize in affordable housing. An extensive list of stakeholders are included in the report.
Both the City Council and the County Commission recently lowered requirements for including affordable homes in new subdivisions. But Murphy said the report’s findings don’t suggest the need for further easing of affordable housing requirements.
“The whole idea is just saying, ‘OK, this is what we have out there,’ ” she said. “How can we start promoting this so we don’t have this perception that Santa Fe is unaffordable to our workforce?”