County, city look to study housing needs

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Local officials say the need for subsidized and assisted living facilities in Socorro County growing.

Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez, the Housing and Urban Development’s El Camino Real Housing Authority director for Socorro, Valencia and Torrance counties, has been working with local entities and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (NMMFA) to establish a plan for future assisted living facilities and subsidized housing.

The contract, as it’s written now, is for the city and the county to each contribute $10,000 to match a grant of $20,000 – or $40,000 total – from the NMMFA. Socorro city council approved the contract at its meeting Monday.

Entities that are working together include the Alamo Navajo Reservation, Socorro General Hospital, Home Health Care, The Good Samaritan Society and the city and county officials of Socorro.

“What I did is I brought different entities together, because what I want to do is make it a community project and not just a housing authority project,” Chavez-Lopez said. “I feel that if it’s a community project, then you could get better service.”

Although there is a nursing home within the area, the assisted living facilities allow for a bit more freedom for their residents, she added.

“(The assisted living) is for the elderly and the disabled, but they have to be self-sufficient,” Chavez-Lopez said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the age of people living within Socorro County is pretty well dispersed. None of the five-year age groups from ages 0 to 80 makes up more than 8.4 percent of the county’s population. However, this does not account for people living with disabilities who may also qualify for indigent care.

The plan is to be comprised of four elements: a profile of the community and its housing market, local differences between incomes and cost of living, land use policy review and development scoping, and a list of items on how the money could possibly be spent.

Because the funding was allocated through the state legislature, there is a time limit on how long the money can stay designated and spent for specific projects, otherwise it can be reverted to the state.

Chavez-Lopez said the need is rising but the city and county will have to leave no stone unturned to find funding for actual facilities.

Sanchez-Lopez said involving more people in the project at meetings would benefit understanding the community’s needs.

Additionally, she said HUD has a separate guideline in determining subsidizing housing eligibility from the poverty index, which is based on household residents to income,and other formulas.

During the Tuesday Socorro County Commission meeting, Nichole Sanchez, program specialist with NMMFA who gave a short presentation on the proposal, said although New Mexico has an anti-donation statute in which governments are barred from giving donations to private entities, there are a few exceptions to the clause. How large and how many units for the assisted living and affordable housing remains to be seen.