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Proposal to build teacher housing on Santa Fe schools property fails

September 19, 2018

The latest attempt to address Santa Fe’s much-debated shortage of affordable housing — this time a proposed small-scale project for entry-level teachers — failed to gain traction during Monday night’s school board meeting.

With two of the board’s five members absent, Maureen Cashmon and Kate Noble voted against a resolution that board President Steven Carrillo hoped would nudge the district toward building condominiums on school property to help lure new teachers.

Cashmon said she didn’t like the idea of the school district getting involved in Santa Fe’s housing challenges, which affect not only teachers but police officers, service industry workers and others who compete for affordable places to live in and around the city.

She said the resolution’s focus on offering discounted living spaces for starting teachers was not fair to the rest of the district’s employees because it amounted to a bonus.

Noble — who last spring unsuccessfully tried to gain board support for an even broader affordable-housing initiative that would have involved the city and county — did not like several points in Carrillo’s resolution, including the fact that it asked the school administration to form a group to study building housing on school land. She said district personnel may not have the expertise to tackle such a job.

And, she said, the resolution did not go far enough in addressing the problem because, “All over people are having issues about housing.”

Had Carrillo’s resolution passed, it would have required Superintendent Veronica García and her staff to create a study group tasked with finding a way to build up to a dozen units of affordable housing for teachers by school year 2020-21. In addition to using district property, proposed measures to make that a reality included identifying grants, tax incentives and loan funds that fall under any existing strategic housing programs.

The action would have been in tandem with city and county efforts to address the issue, and Carrillo cited a letter written by Mayor Alan Webber expressing his support of the idea.

Art teacher Grace Mayer, president of the National Education Association’s Santa Fe chapter, told the board, “We need teachers who are skilled to come and stay here and be able to afford to live here.” Both the city and county “have a responsibility to house their community,” she said, and should step up as partners with the district in such an effort.

But Carrillo, clearly frustrated with the lack of support from other board members, later in the meeting used his gavel to call Mayer out of order when she told him that he was fighting a losing battle and “going off on a tangent … and you’re not helping things.” She left the meeting at that point.

After the 90-minute discussion of the issue, Carrillo acknowledged that county officials who had pledged support for the idea were probably watching the drama play out and thinking, “We’re not working with them — they’re crazy!”

Board members Rudy Garcia and Lorraine Price did not attend Monday’s meeting.

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