Five years after its inception, Vista de Socorro, an affordable housing project, broke ground on Tuesday.

“I want to thank everyone who stuck with us the last five years, it’s been a really hard road but I’m so happy we are finally able to get here,” said Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez, executive director for El Camino Real Housing Authority, at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Those who spoke at the event included representatives from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, Rep. Gail Armstrong, Rep. Tara Jaramillo, Daniel Werwath from the governor’s office and Jeff Curry of the JL Gray Company. They spoke to the value of the partnerships created to make the project happen and recognized Chavez-Lopez for her tenacity.

The affordable housing development is tucked behind Socorro Mental Health and Socorro General Hospital off Highway 60. The design will have two wings of 16 units each, of one- and two-bedroom units, with a community center connecting them.

The complex will feature a garden, playground, food pantry, a solar array and laundry facilities for the residents. It will also house three offices for management, the housing authority and supportive housing counselors.

In an interview before the groundbreaking event, Jeff Curry, Director of Development for JL grey, said he expects Vista de Socorro to be open for residents in May of 2025.
The two main goals are to divert homelessness and to be good neighbors.

“Housing first is really what we focus on when trying to help communities solve issues of not just homelessness but people breaking the law, abusing drugs or anything else,” Curry said. “Once you have a safe place to stay, it’s easier to make smart decisions about everything else that’s going on.”

The housing will use project-based vouchers, with a focus on households that make 30% or less of the area median income and with 20% of the units set aside for individuals and families who are homeless, at risk of homelessness and with special needs.

Chavez-Lopez and Curry said they want to assure the community that safety is a priority, and they will have strict policies in place for residents, including background checks, monthly inspections for fire hazards, maintenance and cleanliness. Those who violate the policies will face eviction.

“We have a very hands-on approach to make sure that we keep the properties running well. We work closely with our partners like the housing authority and county community alternatives program, who’s going to be helping provide behavioral health services. So,the goal is to keep people housed, and that means if someone’s having trouble, that we get them the support that they need, so they can be a good neighbor,” Curry said.

Chavez-Lopez said that it’s especially important to them that they are good neighbors to Socorro Mental Health and the hospital.

In 2019, Chavez-Lopez, began working with consultants to bring in affordable housing to Socorro. Market studies in Socorro showed there was less than 1% vacancy in housing available.

Like many other projects during that time, COVID-19 slowed it down and the inflation of materials and labor shortages increased the 6-million-dollar project into 13.3 million one.

Chavez-Lopez said everyone in the state was having a similar issue, and that if it wasn’t for the gap funding the governor put in place, it might not have happened.

They had to patchwork grants including grant money and loans from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, the governor’s gap program and solar tax credits.

They received support from the City of Socorro who donated the land and local representatives, Tara Jaramillo, and Gail Armstrong who secured funding for the project.

There were times when Chavez-Lopez wasn’t sure if the project would happen, and she is grateful that she had support from the community and Curry’s team throughout the process.

“People don’t know behind the scenes how hard Mary Ann has been working for five years to get to this point; these things don’t happen overnight,” Curry said.
Chavez-Lopez believes that this project is the beginning of something bigger.

“I’m just excited this is finally going to become a reality,” Chavez-Lopez said, “We hope to do another project like this in the other two counties that are part of our jurisdiction.”

Jessica Carranza Pino, Editor