Santa Fe Tax hike for affordable housing a terrible idea

The Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association is working to get Santa Fe City Council support for a bond financing scheme to raise $2.5 million annually to provide more affordable and rental-unit housing. If successful, the association hopes to get the measure on the March municipal election ballot.

This is yet another in a long line of tax hikes that Santa Feans and their elected officials should reject. It’s not that “affordable housing” is a bad idea. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is that if city officials want to make housing more affordable, they need to peel back layer upon layer of zoning and land use regulations that make building in and around the city of Santa Fe more expensive and difficult than it should be.

Every time builders attempt to construct apartment buildings in Santa Fe, they are met with organized opposition from the NIMBY crowd that opposes just about any and all development. Until processes are reformed to overcome these groups, truly affordable housing will be harder to come by than necessary.

No tax-and-spend transfer scheme is going to paper over the fact that if special interests oppose them, new apartments and rental units will just not be available.

While Santa Fe fancies itself a progressive city, it is the low-income and poor who suffer. The title of a 2016 report from the Brookings Institution, “How land use regulations are zoning out low-income families,” really says it all. It is the poor and young who suffer most.

With Santa Fe and the rest of our state already facing poor prospects for economic growth, land use planning is yet another area that must be considered for reform. Raising taxes on one hand and using those dollars for the purported purpose of creating “affordable” housing just shifts the burden of bad policies from special interests to the taxpayers.

Thankfully, on soda taxes and some other recent tax hike issues, Santa Feans seem to be realizing that more is not necessarily better. Hopefully the city’s elected officials realize this before it gets to the voters.

Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.