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At its March 6 regular meeting, the Las Cruces City Council unanimously approved resolutions creating an affordable housing loan fund and updating the city’s policy for naming and renaming city streets.
Affordable housing loan fund
The construction revolving loan fund will be financed by the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, created in 2010, which uses grants and loans to finance housing projects, city Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Natalie Green said at the meeting.
Under the program, seed funding of $500,000 will be loaned at one percent interest to Tierra del Sol, a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Las Cruces, to build houses on 39 lots at Metro Park Village on the city’s East Mesa, Green said. There are 55 pre-screen applicants on the city’s homeownership waiting list, all of whom have incomes of up to 120 percent of area median income, and will be pre-approved before construction starts, she said.
“These are low- to moderate-income home buyers who otherwise would not have the opportunity to achieve homeownership,” Green said.
The short-term loans, likely eight- to 12-months in duration, Green said, will be paid back to the city at closing. Once built, homes will be sold for $169,000-$175,000, she said, with an average interest savings on construction of $2,800 passed on to the homeowner.
“In this area, which is in my district, the average home is probably about $315,000, so immediately folks have a lot of equity, which is the great part of homeownership,” Council Becky Corran said at the meeting.
“It’s so great to see yet another example of empowering single-family home ownership,” Councilor Becki Graham said.
The loan fund is “building wealth for people, for families,” Councilor Johana Bencomo said. “Home ownership is further and further away for so many New Mexicans. I bought my home in 2019. I don’t know that I would be able to afford my home this year. This kind of program … is just such a big deal.”
The city hopes to “build on initial successes that we anticipate coming and do an expansion of the program,” Green said. “We have selected Tierra del Sol because they’re that experienced developer to work with, but we would like to see this open much broader and build that capacity across the continuum.”
Naming and renaming streets
The resolution amending how the city names and renames its streets is the first update to that policy since 1980, the city said.
Amendments include allowing for the change of street names that are “deemed derogatory, discriminatory, racist or vulgar,” the city said, and ensuring that street names are “reasonably straightforward and easy to pronounce” and are not duplicated or sound the same.
Bencomo read an email from a member of the Navajo Nation Tribe who lives in Las Cruces and said, “The indigenous community both who reside here and from afar are in support of changing names that dishonor groups of people and continue to keep them in stereotyped and derogatory timelines, frozen and unchanging.”
Squaw Mountain Drive, the name of a street located south of East Lohman Avenue between Foothills Road and Roadrunner Parkway, was cited in two emails Bencomo read and by other council members.
The second email Bencomo read was written by a member of the Piro Manso Tiwa Tribe, who said, “Place names can carry powerful historical significance and the use of discriminatory language or racial slurs represents a traumatic history of racism and colonization that continues into the present day.
“New Mexico is the state with the most cases of missing and murdered indigenous women,” the writer said. “The continued use of slurs that devalue and demonize us are linked to this epidemic of violence. Everyone deserves to feel safe and valued in our community.”