NM Dilemma: Affordable Housing vs. Climate Change
Monday, October 3, 2022
A shortage of housing in New Mexico's largest cities forces many to drive hundreds of miles a day for jobs, making it harder to fight climate change, according to local experts.
As in other parts of the country, home prices and rents have increased dramatically the past two years in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It is estimated those who commute to Santa Fe generate between 10% and 20% of the county's total greenhouse gas emissions.
Kelly O'Donnell, director of the homeownership nonprofit Homewisdom in Santa Fe, said the state has made significant progress in some areas to address climate change, but needs more commuting options.
"Decreasing the number of miles New Mexicans drive remains critical to reducing emissions and combating climate change," O'Donnell asserted. "Making it possible for more people to live in close proximity to work, shopping and services and school, is key to reducing New Mexico's automobile dependence."
The cost of living in New Mexico is 8.5% below the national average, but a survey by CityRating.com showed fewer than five active real estate listings for every 10,000 existing homes.
Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club's Rio Grande Chapter, who was born and raised in Albuquerque, said a new species of mosquito this summer further highlights the effects of climate change.
"People aren't going outside anymore," Feibelman observed. "Temperatures are changing and inviting this new species in a way that really impacts us and makes life uncomfortable. But even more devastating were the impacts of climate-driven fires this summer."
Tammy Fiebelkorn, city councilor in Albuquerque, pointed out since almost all transportation dollars in the past 70 years have been spent on building highways, traffic congestion, pollution and sprawl are no surprise.
She believes it is time to provide more ride-sharing, public transportation and fuel-efficient vehicles.
"In cities across the Southwest, we've actually prevented compact, transportation-efficient development patterns, and that's how we got to where we are today," Fiebelkorn noted. "And have people driving hours a day to get where they need to go."
New Mexico has a goal to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions by 45% by 2030.
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