By Teya Vitu

The Siler Yard affordable housing idea on Siler Road has been floating around for eight years, going through 24 public hearings and 23 community events to shape the live/work apartments with a preference for artists.

The $18.77 million financing package is finally in place.

Construction started Monday on the 65-unit complex with eight residential buildings. The first building is expected to be ready for tenants in February with more buildings coming online each month through August 2021, said Daniel Werwath, executive director of New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing, a Santa Fe affordable housing developer and property management firm.

“This project is going to be the first affordable, low-wage housing in the state that is focused on people who have a creative pursuit,” Werwath said. “It’s a giant statement in how we can lead neighborhood development in affordable housing. Hopefully, it becomes a nexus for the creative community.”

Monthly rents for the 28 one-bedroom units at 658 square feet will range from $427 to $855, depending on tenant income level. The 30 two-bedroom units with 1,000 square feet will have rents from $513 to $1,026, and the seven three-bedroom units at 1,285 square feet will rent for $592 to $1,185, Werwath said.

He said the units will be affordable for somebody earning the Santa Fe minimum wage of $12.10 per hour. Werwath maintains if the one-bedroom units were at market rate, rent would be about $1,600 to $1,800 per month.

Utilities will be free for tenants. There will be 543 solar panels installed as Siler Yard seeks to be a net-zero energy project, producing all the power the project will use with 238.9 kilowatts of solar power, Werwath said.

Former City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger urged improvements to project approvals so future affordable housing projects don’t take eight years to break ground.

“Now more than ever, we need a creative, comprehensive moonshot vision to effectively and efficiently deliver a responsive number of affordable housing units,” said Wurzburger, who was on the City Council from 2002-14 and dealt with Siler Yard as it was proposed in 2012. “Siler Yard is indeed an innovative and welcomed addition to the Santa Fe decades-old, award-winning affordable housing legacy.”

Siler Yard was designed to comply with federal Fair Housing Act guidelines to provide affordable housing with an artist preference. If artists do not rent all the units, Siler Yard will also consider multigenerational families or families with children, Werwath said.

“You have to demonstrate a need for live/work space,” Werwath said.

AOS Architects of Santa Fe is the architect and Pavilion Construction of Albuquerque is the general contractor.

Siler Yard apartments will have concrete floors; plywood-backed walls to hang objects or mount equipment; utility sinks; and larger main living areas that can be used as work space and host open studios or small events. Bedrooms and bathrooms will be set apart to create distinct live/work areas, Werwath said.

Siler Yard is funded by a $10.4 million competitive Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and a $5.2 million, 40-year, Section 221(d)(4) mortgage — both U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs for affordable housing. The project received $600,000 in permit and fee waivers from the city of Santa Fe, which also contributed $400,000 in infrastructure funding and 4.3 acres of land that was appraised at $1.1 million, Werwath said.

There is also $650,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas issued through Century Bank, New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing is reinvesting its $430,000 developer fee into the project, and $350,000 in individual and business donations are funding the solar power, he said.

The federal affordable housing funding requires Siler Yard to offer tenants health, education and job-training services.

A future phase at Siler Yard will add a 10,000-square-foot community makerspace building, Werwath said.

“These will be some of the nicer rental units in Santa Fe. Period,” Werwath said.

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