Blaze in Ruidoso brings the need for affordable housing to forefront

2022-06-20 02:43:10 By : Ms. Monica Liao

Jun. 19—RUIDOSO — In small tourist towns, a lack of affordable housing often is an issue.

That's been the case for the Village of Ruidoso, a mountain town of about 8,000 residents, Mayor Lynn Crawford told the Journal in early June.

And the McBride Fire, which grew to nearly 6,200 acres, burned more than 200 homes and left two people dead earlier this year, only exacerbated the housing issue further.

Crawford said that after the wildfire, estimates now put the village at more than 300 apartment units short of what's needed to house workers, underscoring the need for more affordable housing — something some residents previously opposed.

There is an untrue perception, Crawford said, that affordable housing attracts crime, which has made previous housing projects difficult to complete with the blessing of the village's residents.

But after the McBride Fire, Crawford said residents began realizing that additional housing benefits those already in the community — from parents who have children enrolled in schools to workers at the local grocery store.

"What it's done is it's brought it to the forefront of how weak we are in workforce housing," he said.

The wildfire also brought an influx of government money geared toward speeding up the process of building workforce housing — something the village has been working on since at least the '70s, according to Crawford.

Crawford said the village is now receiving two sources of funding — one from the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration and one from the New Mexico Finance Authority — to help ramp up planning and construction of at least two housing developments in Ruidoso.

"It expedited the seriousness of it," Crawford said. "I don't know what political pundit said this years ago, but don't let a crisis go to waste."

Combined, the money totals $1.4 million, the mayor said, and will go toward an apartment complex on Mechem Drive that would add about 98 units and a development that would add more than a dozen single- and double-wide trailers.

Both developments will be targeted at low- and middle-income residents.

Crawford said the village plans to create an enterprise fund to allow Ruidoso to purchase properties and rent them at a low rate — but high enough that the village can regain the investment money.

The village is also looking at a program that would allow renters to eventually purchase property they were previously renting.

"If they're in the house and they pay their rent on time the first, say, two years and want to purchase that house, then they can have equity that will be counted as down payment or equity through these programs," Crawford said.

Crawford said more money is needed to build out these developments and he and the village have reached out to modular home manufacturers and are in the process of putting out requests for proposals.

"The most I've got that's going to happen, say in the next three months, is going to be maybe 16 to 20 homes," he said.

Crawford added that the village is also looking at reclaiming dilapidated properties that can also, eventually, be turned into affordable housing for residents.

"We've been rewriting ... our building code, which covers a lot of those things," Crawford said. "But that's all part of the big plan of 'how do you get housing started?'"

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