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LAS CRUCES CITY COUNCIL

City council adopts climate action plan, affordable housing agreement

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The Las Cruces City Council has adopted the city’s first ever climate action plan.

The city began efforts to minimize its impact on climate change and identify greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation strategies, the city said in the executive summary of the resolution.

The work included “developing the city’s first community-wide and municipal GHG emissions inventories, a strategic stakeholder engagement process to develop GHG reduction strategies and modeling the emissions reduction potential associated with the selected strategies,” the executive summary said. “The result is an actionable and aggressive plan that guides the municipality and community to reduce its GHG emissions by 73 percent by 2050.”

The city’s sustainability office will work with other city departments and stakeholders “to develop specific policies and actions that ensure an equitable climate transition.”

“You’ve really taken this and developed a fantastic department and I’m really proud of how you’ve been able to do this,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima told city Sustainability Officer Lisa Larocque. “This is really very good stuff,” he said.

“I’ve studied climate change for a couple-three decades now,” said Councilor Gill Sorg, who recommended even more aggressive action by the city, including phasing out its use of natural gas and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, using more electric busses and making city buildings more energy efficient. “GHG inventories and climate action plans are considered an essential framework for reducing a jurisdiction’s climate impact,” said Larocque, who has been the city’s sustainability officer since August 2013. “For cities that have sustainability offices, I would say that the majority have plans or in the process of developing them.” Larocque said Las Cruces “is also a member of Climate Mayors that have made a commitment to support the Paris Climate Agreement. The Climate Action Plan is an expression of that commitment.”

Las Cruces created the sustainability office in 2009.

Affordable housing

At the same meeting, the council approved a resolution establishing an affordable housing development agreement between the city and Tierra Del Sol Housing Corporation that is expected to lead to the construction of 32 affordable housing units on nearly 4.5 acres of land known as the Sierra Tract, just east and south of Sierra Middle School, the city said in a news release.

Construction of the estimated $3.2 million project could begin as soon as February.

Construction will include eight single-family homes, 12 townhomes and 12 apartments, the city said. Amenities will include a walking path and a community garden. The council also asked for easy access to Sierra Middle School for children living in the subdivision and nearby neighborhood.

The city acquired the Sierra Tract property from Las Cruces Public Schools in trade for a road improvement project on Bruins Lane.

Las Cruces has “a big shortage” of affordable housing available for rent and for purchase, said city Housing Development Coordinator Jan Lauterbach.

The resolution passed 6-1, with Miyagishima voting no.

“Tierra del Sol has always done a great job, and so my no vote wasn’t necessarily against them,” the mayor said in an email to the Bulletin. “I was of the impression this parcel of land was to be used for our senior residents who are having a difficult time finding a safe and functional place to live at an affordable price. It is true that we have a housing shortage, but these future tenants have one or sometimes two wage earners in the family as opposed to our seniors who are retired and living on a fixed income.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as housing that can be obtained for 30 percent or less of the resident’s income.