Friday, October 26, 2012


As published in the October 25 edition of the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Homewise buys land near Aldea subdivision

Santa Fe nonprofit that builds affordable housing recently made a large land purchase on the city’s northwest side.

Homewise closed a deal in September to buy 238 acres on both sides of N.M. 599 near the Aldea neighborhood, Executive Director Mike Loftin said.

The agency’s plans to build affordable housing in that part of the Santa Fe urban area is in line with a community vision to economically integrate the city, said Loftin. Both the city and the county adopted “inclusionary zoning” rules in the last decade that require some homes in each subdivision to comply with rules on affordability.

“We think this is our last chance to be able to do something on the north side, because if the housing market bounces back, we will be priced out,” he said.

The purchase includes an already-platted subdivision north of the bypass called Tessera, with 74 lots that have roads and complete infrastructure. The nonprofit will first focus on building single-family homes there.

In the second phase of development, Homewise will tackle another 78 lots there were approved more than 10 years ago by Santa Fe County, but won’t see construction for a number of years, he said.
The third section of the newly purchased land is 92 acres south of N.M 599 in an area slated for future annexation by the city of Santa Fe. Although a Homewise project there is also years in the future, neighboring residents are already concerned that the area’s new “rural residential” zoning will create too much density. Any housing proposed for the tract would have to undergo the city’s development review process and comply with its rules.

According to county records, the land in the 1990s was owned by Christian Brothers of Santa Fe, who owned and operated The College of Santa Fe. In 1998, the Christian Brothers got approval to divide lots on both sides of the bypass. By 2001, Michael Hurlocker had bought the land and secured development permission to put 166 lots on 146 acres north of the bypass.
Loftin said Hurlocker sold 14 of the lots but only a handful of homes were constructed. Homewise now owns the balance of the developed lots.

Wide streets with curbs and gutters at the Tessera subdivision wind around a ridge connecting with Aldea, a fairly dense subdivision with a variety of housing types. Tessera lots are identified with numbers; however, the only buildings there appear to be a pair of contemporary-looking homes that sit together at the end of a cul de sac. Electric boxes are idle and street signs direct nonexistent traffic.
Hurlocker envisioned the Tessera development as a “community of single-family contemporary homes,” but those plans apparently fell through. His website still lists a price range for lots there ranging between $99,000 and $210,000. Hurlocker did not respond to a request for comment this week. He told several people that he decided to “give the land back to the bank.”

Homewise bought the land from Los Alamos National Bank and now plans to build both market-rate homes and housing that qualifies for government-assisted, first-time homebuyer programs, Loftin said. The nonprofit understands the nature of the area and wants to build some houses that are closer to other, more pricey homes already there, he said. Homes will range in size from 1,000 square feet to 2,000 square feet, he said.

“Given the surrounding community, we knew that we have to build a bigger, more expensive home because we don’t want to have a negative effect on our neighbors. We want to show that affordable housing can fit in anywhere,” he said. “It is not this thing to be avoided. It is something that can contribute to a great neighborhood.”

Ann and Tom Woodward were among the first families to move into a single-family unit in Aldea about seven years ago. They said Thursday that they support plans to put affordable housing in nearby Tessera.

"We really think this is terrific," Ann Woodward said. "We think it would be useful for all the communities out here."

While low-cost housing has been relegated mostly to the southwestern side of the city during a building boom over the last two decades, Homewise recently completed an affordable-housing development on the city’s southeast side near Quail Run and is working on homes in the PiƱon Ridge area on the west side.

Sid Monroe, secretary of the Coyote Ridge Homeowners Association, which abuts the southern side of the new Homewise land, says he and many of his neighbors are worried that city rules, which will allow more homes per acre, will eventually change the character of the region. Mostly, however, he said they don’t want to miss opportunities to weigh in on whatever is proposed.

“We are just going to stay on top if it,” Monroe said. “We kind of got burned during the annexation process and we just don’t want to be blindsided and have Homewise do a development plan and ask for early annexation and change in zoning and us be totally caught unawares.”

Contact Julie Ann Grimm at 986-3017 at

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