Valentine Way and Apache Knoll Tierra Contenta Subdivision Santa Fe New Mexico


arroyo A deep gully cut by an intermittent stream; a dry gulch. A brook; a creek. chico The common greasewood of the western United States

Southwest city Santa Fe faces a harsh climate with huge daily temperature swings, not much shade, a lot of wind, rocky soil, and high runoff. Nevertheless, the beauty of the desert and the charm of this historic city have attracted many to it. As the city has grown over the years, the need for affordable housing has increased greatly as well.

In the early 1990s, the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust (SFCHT) arose out of a community planning effort to address a growing gap in housing. Enterprise Community Partners helped by providing funds for a com-munitywide effort to improve affordable housing options in Santa Fe County. In 1993, the same year that SFCHT was formed to serve as the umbrella organization for these affordable housing funds, the city and county of Santa Fe passed an inclusionary zoning ordinance requiring market-rate builders to either provide affordable housing units based on a percentage of the total development or pay an in-lieu fee into an affordable housing trust fund. SFCHT became the executor of that trust fund as well as a housing developer. This trust fund model reduces the initial cost of for-sale housing and protects the affordability of a home over the long term.

Taking advantage of the region's enormous solar poten tial, in 2003 the Arroyo Chico project became the first passive solar affordable project in Santa Fe, considered by the SFCHT board to be "the culmination of its work to date." According to Jim Hannan, SFCHT finance director, "the Arroyo Chico project incorporated some important green features: passive solar orientation, a very tight building envelope, long-lasting metal roofs, and a low-cost, efficient water harvesting system. We proved that green building techniques can be incorporated into affordable housing."

Built in a northern New Mexico style, the 17 single-family houses, each averaging 1,175 square feet, are designed for maximum passive solar gain, with south-oriented windows, radiant heat in the tile floors, and high levels of insulation. Part of the larger market-rate Tierra Contenta subdivision, the homes are located in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood next to a city park, a library, a youth facility, and four schools. Many of the houses are also adjacent to open space that connects to the Tierra Contenta walking trails.

The trust is unique in its full-service approach to providing housing for low-income people. Its Homebuyer Training and Counseling program has assisted over 3,500 prospective homebuyers since 1993. Cosponsored by local lenders, real estate agents, nonprofit groups, and government agencies, the program teaches the "ABCs of Home Ownership"—evaluating needs, financial eligibility, and how to be financially savvy first-time homebuyers. Prospective homeowners must complete the program's four classes before they are eligible for the trust's housing devel opments. For Arroyo Chico, all of the new homeowners were at or below 80 percent of Santa Fe's area median income of $60,000 per year. In recent years, the lack of workforce housing, or housing affordable to professionals

"We proved that green building techniques can be incorporated into affordable housing."

Jim Hannan finance director, Santa Fe Community Housing Trust such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, and nurses who provide essential community services, emerged as a concern among housing advocates, employers, business leaders, and policymakers in the Santa Fe area.1


From the very beginning, architect Suby Bowden and her firm pushed for passive solar design in the project. A particular challenge on the small lots was to make sure one property did not shade another. Bowden came up with a site plan that has a unique Z-shaped lot layout, allowing the 17 single-family detached home lots to fit onto the site and still maintain good solar access.

Passive Solar Design: As a part of the passive solar design strategy, there are no windows on the north elevations and minimal windows on the west elevations. The majority of the high-efficiency, low-e windows are on the south side of the homes, and for ease of maintenance can be tilted in for cleaning without removing the screen. Ceramic tiles, used throughout the homes except in the bedrooms, are also a part of the passive solar design, acting as thermal mass sinks.2 The use of tile instead of the more typical carpeting greatly improves indoor air quality by removing areas where dust, mites, and mold can accumulate. In addition, the team's research showed that ceramic tile will last two and a half times longer than carpet, with a life span of roughly twenty-five years. The pitched metal roofs, used instead of composite shingles, are expected to last up to fifty years, twice as long as a standard roof.

To ensure a tight building envelope, blown-in cellulose insulation was used in all the houses in place of rigid foam or batt insulation. This insulation has a higher R-value and is made out of recycled newspaper.

With good passive solar design and a tight building envelope, the remaining heat needs are handled with efficient radiant floor heat. SFCHT's Jim Hannan notes that there are three zones in each home, using McLain boilers and Wirsbo tubing. With radiant heat, each object in the room becomes warm, contributing to comfort while avoiding air currents, blowing dust, or cold spots. Hannan says that the trust "did training information sheets for homeowners, particularly for the radiant floor education," as it was a new technology for most people.


Project Size: 17 single-family detached homes for sale in three floor plans. Includes 11 three-bedroom units averaging 1,175 sq ft, not counting garage;and 6 two-bedroom homes averaging 1,050 sq ft, for first-time homeowners.

Total Square Footage:

20,000 sq ft

Construction Cost:


Total Development Cost:


Average Cost/Unit:


Average Cost/Sq Ft:


Incremental Cost to Build



Average Price of House:


Completion date:

August 2003

Project Team


Santa Fe Community Housing Trust


Suby Bowden and Associates

Development Consultant:

Guy Stanke


and Planning

Tierra Contenta Corporation


Sage Builders

Suby Bowden
As a part of the larger market-rate Tierra Contenta subdivision, the homes are located in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. © Santa Fe Community Housing Trust.

Xeriscape and Rainwater Harvesting: A xeriscape approach to the landscaping at Arroyo Chico uses native plants to reflect local character and to reduce maintenance and water use. The landscape also incorporates edible fruit trees, bushes, and grapevines. The necessary outdoor watering, particularly during frequent periods of severe drought, is supplied by one of the most innovative features of Arroyo Chico—the rainwater harvesting system. Downspouts from the roof gutters are connected to a 550-gallon cistern. A hose bib attachment allows homeowners to water individual plants by gravity flow. This system has proved quite successful, and the fruit trees and other landscaping are doing very well, according to Hannan.

Social Aspects of Design: Bowden cites the importance of focusing not only on the energy efficiency and physical health aspects of the design but also on the social side as well. The idea was to make these affordable houses thoughtfully designed homes for the families who would live in them. Special effort was made to accommodate growing families. The roofs enclose large attic areas that can be used for storage, and the framing allows for later conversion into additional living spaces such as an extra bedroom and bathroom. Plans illustrating a future expansion were given to the owners.

"The project attracted people who might not have normally been interested in living in an affordable housing community," notes Bowden, even if their income levels gave them access to this option. The project was not marketed as "green" because at the time the term was not well understood. Instead, Bowden used "passive solar and healthy building" to describe the development. The market response to Arroyo Chico was very positive. There was a


• Passive solar site layout for all homes

• Pedestrian-friendly neighborhood close to schools and open space


• Water harvesting system with 550-gal cistern

• Xeriscape and native landscaping design

• Low-flow toilet and shower fixtures


• Very tight building envelope

• High R-value blown-in cellulose insulation

• Passive heating and cooling

• Radiant floors

Materials and Resources

• Recycled-content cellulose insulation

• Mechanical system site reduced through passive heating and cooling

Health and Comfort

• Low-volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint, flooring, and cabinets

• Roofs enclose large attic areas that can be used for storage or converted to living space later on

• Porch with plantable shaded trellis

• Project marketed as "passive solar and healthy building"

Durability and Ease of Maintenance

• Ceramic tile flooring (instead of carpet)

• Metal roof (instead of asphalt shingles)

• Windows tilt in without removing the screen for cleaning

• Architect presentation on how to operate a green home and information sheets given to homeowners waiting list of more than a hundred SFCHT-prequalified households, including teachers, hospital workers, public workers, the elderly, and some disabled people.


The trust purchased the property for $407,390 with its own funds, while Charter Bank supplied a construction loan. The total project cost was $2,337,477, or $116 per square foot. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas provided an Affordable Housing Program grant of $119,000 for predevelopment costs. The homes sold for between $140,000 and $165,000 with an average down payment of $19,000. As a designated Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO), SFCHT received $220,000 from New Mexico Mortgage Finance Agency's HOME fund set-aside for down payment assistance. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas provided additional assistance of $105,000 to provide a soft second mortgage to each buyer. Homeowners were responsible for obtaining their own mortgage financing for the balance of the loan.

According to a study on Arroyo Chico by the Tellus Institute and New Ecology, Inc., the cost increase due to green features was less than 1 percent of the total development costs, while the benefits were much greater. "There were no differences in design costs," says Jim Hannan, and "going




Santa Fe Community Housing Trust

(Property acquisition) $407,390 Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas-

Affordable Housing Program (grant) $119,000


Charter Bank (construction financing) $1,811,087

TOTAL $2,337,477

Green Design



Traditional Design



Green Design Premium



Green Construction



Traditional Construction



Net Cost of Greening





from R-19 to R-25 insulation had no cost increase." The value of the green improvements is estimated at nearly "$8,000 per house over a thirty-year time period, or $132,267 for the development as a whole," the study concluded.

The green building strategies used in this project are saving the homeowners $25 to $30 per month in utility bills from November to March, with annual savings of over $125 per year.


For architect Suby Bowden, whose firm has done affordable housing projects all over the United States as well as in Dublin, Ireland, the lessons learned and struggles are always the same: "To produce enough units so that it's still affordable, you have to capture the economies of scale." With only 17 units in this project, this kind of economy was hard to pull off; Bowden wanted to make it a bigger project. During construction, for example, prices on the highly insulated windows escalated in cost. The contractor wanted to substitute vinyl windows, which, as Bowden notes, "are not a green solution."3 In addition, the team designed a simple-to-maintain, long-lasting steel porch that could host a shade trellis. However, during construction, steel costs increased enormously, so the team ended up substituting wood. The project team learned that they needed to be nimble and prepared with information on alternative materials or solutions in the event that their first choices became too expensive or were not available.

Another problem Bowden noted was the lack of general contractors in the area who were familiar with green techniques at the time. With a county population of 120,000, "the small community doesn't yet have the capacity to support green products or building," she says. Her firm is now working on building a green building-friendly contractor community.

In the end, Bowden commented that "people are very happy with their homes" and that the project represents a wonderful mix of people, with various ages and family sizes. For many of the buyers, Arroyo Chico represented their only chance to purchase a new home in the Santa Fe area. According to the trust's annual report, forty-two-year-old homeowner Lisa Hernandez said, "I had been thinking about buying a home for more than four years before I actually was able to do it. The night we closed, my kids made me camp out in the house with no furniture!"

"The Arroyo project has held up well," says Jim Hannan, "although some people have built porches that block the passive solar opportunity." The SFCHT has gone on to do other green projects, such as the 30-unit ElderGrace project, also in Santa Fe, a conscious-aging cohousing development whose members dedicate themselves to spiritual growth, mutual support, respect for the environment, and service to others.


Developer: Santa Fe Community Housing Trust

Jim Hannan, finance director: 505-989-3960

Architect: Suby Bowden Architects

Suby Bowden, project architect: 505-983-3755


Bowden, Suby, of Suby Bowden Architects, personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, July 19, 2006, and e-mail correspondence, July 2006. The Costs and Benefits of Green Affordable Housing, a publication of New Ecology, Inc., the Tellus Institute, and the Green CDCs Initiative, 2005,


City of Santa Fe Affordable Housing: community-services/index.asp.

ElderGrace, Santa Fe Community Housing Trust's recent green cohousing community for older residents:

Fogarty, Mark, "Affordable Housing Scene in Santa Fe Heats Up with a Rising Number of Solar Powered Developments," New Mexico Business Weekly, March 29, 2002,

Hannan, Jim, finance director, Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, personal interview by Jenifer Seal Cramer, June 2, 2006, and e-mail correspondence, June 2006.

Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, "Annual Report: Jan. 2002-June 2003."


1. Workforce housing is aimed at middle-income professionals such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses and medical technicians, who provide essential community services. Workforce families are usually younger and often include children. Although no uniform income guidelines have yet been set, workforce housing is generally affordable to households earning incomes within the range of 60-120 percent of area median income. The lack of workforce housing is typically of great concern in areas with expensive real estate markets or in resort areas. Workforce housing is also often located in or near employment centers, as one antidote to traffic congestion and lengthy commutes stemming from sprawl.

2. Thermal mass sinks temper the intensity of the heat during the day by absorbing the heat. At night, the thermal mass radiates heat into the living space.

3. According to the Healthy Building Network, vinyl is a highly toxic product that contaminates our houses, bodies, and the environment.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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