In 1958, in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the city, Santa Fe mandated that all new and rebuilt buildings must be in the Spanish-Pueblo style of architecture. After the tourism boom of the 1970s and a subsequent dramatic increase in the cost of housing, another erosion of the cultural fabric of the City threatened to occur. Accelerated gentrification and an influx of wealthy people from out of state were pushing out local, poorer residents who had centuries-old roots in the City.
In a city where incomes are 28 percent below the national average and housing costs are 49 percent higher, Santa Fe had to take decisive and immediate action. In 1992 the City helped create the Santa Fe Affordable Housing Roundtable, a coalition of city and county government officials, nine local nonprofit groups, and the Enterprise Foundation, a national, affordable-housing intermediary. The aim was to develop an ambitious strategic housing plan to maintain the economic and ethnic diversity of Santa Fe by ensuring that half of all future housing would be affordable to low- and middle-income households.
Collaboration between city government, nonprofit organizations and foundations as well as private real estate developers and the banking community has been vital to the success of the Santa Fe Affordable Housing Roundtable. The City has become a true partner with low-income-housing advocacy organizations; by nurturing, funding and legitimizing nonprofits, it has helped them reach new levels of production and service. The Roundtable has knitted together seventeen separate housing programs that provide everything from city-funded mortgage assistance and federally funded rent subsidies to transitional housing for homeless families and homebuyer training programs.
In three years and using just over $800,000 in city money the Roundtable has leveraged $52 million in housing assistance from the government and the private sector. In that time frame, it has also helped more than 600 families stay in Santa Fe; plans are in place to help over 800 more.
The City's boldest step has been the purchase and development of Tierra Contenta, an 860-acre tract of land, slated to become an economically self-sustainable, mixed-income and mixed-use community with traditional architecture, parks and an extensive trail network.
Santa Fe has shown the political willingness to devise a collaborative approach to the shortage of affordable housing. By building an infrastructure of nonprofit housing agencies that work with the City to become the major affordable-housing production agents for Santa Fe, it has increased efficiency among public, nonprofit, and private housing providers.