Taos County Seal

The Taos County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday (July 20) to approve a resolution adopting the “Taos County Affordable Housing Plan.” The adoption of the resolution will lay the groundwork for the county to begin drafting affordable housing ordinances and tackling a problem that continues to plague the area.

During a previous special meeting earlier this month (July 14), the commissioners heard a presentation from various members of the New Mexico Mortgage and Finance Authority (MFA) about affordable housing options and how the county could get involved.

The MFA works with local governments to ensure compliance with the New Mexico Affordable Housing Act, and aims to provide resources and data to help municipalities with housing issues.

The plan covers what MFA CEO and executive director Izzy Hernandez referred to as a “continuum of housing,” or helping people in every stage of housing, from homelessness to homeownership.

Hernandez and the rest of the MFA presented a number of options for the county to participate in the push for affordable housing, including Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), first time homebuyer programs, and several Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs.

In the affordable housing plan, it states the county has been paying a price for Taos’ popularity. “Tourism has generated many jobs; however, most of these jobs pay low wages and many are seasonal,” reads part of the executive summary of the plan. “At the same time, housing prices have increased significantly as out-of-state buyers and second homeowners have moved to Taos County.” The plan goes on to acknowledge the “mis-match” between incomes and housing costs, “which is the most extreme in the state.”

The plan also hopes to provide the county the ability to donate land to be used for affordable housing, create discussion around viable public housing for the lowest income renters, and to develop services to deal with those facing homelessness.

The plan addresses the reality of the issues the county is facing, and admits that despite previous successes, “some major gaps remain to fully address the affordable housing challenges in Taos.”

“The fact that only 12 percent of renter households can qualify for their first home is creating a bottleneck throughout the entire housing pipeline. The plan also acknowledges the difference in needs between the county and the town.

Stated goals of the plan include the development of approximately 800 additional affordable housing units. To accomplish this, the goals include: building workforce rentals in Questa and other locations; creating new LIHTC projects in partnership with the town; increasing the impact of the Northern Regional Housing Authority in the area; establishing a land trust to develop new starter homes; expanding the use of rehabilitation programs; and to support and provide housing for those experiencing homelessness.

County planning director Edward Vigil called the adoption of the resolution and continuing discussion “a couple of steps in the right direction towards Taos County being able to leverage state resources to assist local efforts to promote affordable housing.”

Vigil made it clear there were several more steps before any actions would be taken, and said senior planner Andy Jones will be working on drafting the ordinance. County manager Brent Jaramillo estimated they are about two months away from that goal.

Commissioner Darlene Vigil said she was “really excited to see this in front of us. We’ve been talking about affordable housing for quite some time and this is definitely a step in the right direction and… so I’m just really excited, thank you.”

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