What are the stable factors in our economy today? Growth is primarily in service industry jobs, I guess. And medicine and health care. The energy sector is reeling from low prices and excess inventory. And yet people want to drill baby drill just outside the Chaco Culture National Historical Park because they think they can extract gas or oil there and make a profit. Or maybe they can just keep their equipment in use and their employees busy while the market flounders for energy resources. Politics have been the primary headlines for several months and now the fix is in with the GOP: Trump seems on his way to the party nomination. Nobody has jumped off of a highrise balcony yet, to my knowledge, but there is some consternation and worry about his rhetoric meshing with what really might need to be done. I have not found a great deal of honesty in the entire batch of candidates, yet when were they ever honest? A chicken in every pot? Read my lips; I will not raise taxes. Name your poison.
Wherefore art thou real estate? 2015 was a solid seven plus percent increase over 2014 for our Santa Fe area residential real estate market. Offices and retail seem to be more in demand, though plenty of vacant space still sits. New residential development is out on the edge of town, away from services and a long and painful ride into the centers of employment with existing mass transit options. The new stuff you see and read about close in is the upper and high mid range priced product that few locals can afford. The buyers for those homes are usually coming from somewhere else, which is great for Realtors and home builders. Defend your profession as being valuable to people if you dare, but do not protest too much. We all make money when another million dollar home is built off of Hyde Park Road or in Las Campanas.
The jobs picture in Santa Fe is not what we brag about. We have jobs and a low unemployment rate, but we do not have much to offer in high paying jobs requiring skills more advanced than providing excellent customer service. Sure, you have to know how to work with numbers, at about a 10th grade level. Manners and listening skills might have been learned at the family dinner table when you became a teenager. What is the unique talent that you bring to the equation?
We brag about quality of life, a near-perfect climate, clean air, views, the art scene, cultural diversity, small town friendliness and no traffic headaches. Anyone with a sense of style or half a brain (did Trump say that too?) wants to live here. But who can afford to, or should I say who would want to if the average priced home is a 20 minute commute to work and 15 minutes the other direction to get the week’s groceries.
Santa Fe city government is in dire financial condition with a budget shortfall of many millions. A classic argument has come up; should we tax our way out or reduce services and expenses? Even a combination of the two seems hard to arrive at as our City power brokers (not real estate brokers) resist laying off the nephew of the cousin you love and hesitate to add fees to water bills and anything that moves. Failure to face the problem some 6 or 8 years ago is now coming back to haunt us. Nobody thought (well some of us did but we were not being heard) the economic woes that began in 2007 or 2008 would still be burdens on our health and our prosperity. The loss of jobs over the last near 10 years in Santa Fe does not even come close to the lack of job reductions for City employees. Maybe the City Hall folks just wanted to keep their equipment in use and their employees busy until the economy turned around. But, you say, we have a Plaza to decorate and maintain! And we have parades and fiestas and reenactments of royalty processions to support. And we have museums to show off the history of the Northern New Mexico region. How much should we subsidize? If a free day at the museum can be enjoyed by a family here on vacation that spends $250 a day while visiting, it that a good trade-off? Should we charge admission to walk around the Plaza?
Real estate is not fickle. It is not wishy-washy. It is not undecided. When it decides to roar it will roar and when it wants to rest in the shade and watch the day go by, it rests in the shade. Real estate could and maybe should be the engine that will pull us forward, but it will need to be fairly distributed and available to all who choose to live and work here. Many say we have visionaries and creative people everywhere you look in Santa Fe. Can we put them to work on our limitations and true needs?
Once again I have asked more questions than I have answered. How might I fix that problem?