BY SUZIE HAVEMANN
Democratic Candidate for
Los Alamos County Council
We are in the midst of an acute housing shortage here in Los Alamos.
To be a vibrant community, we need to support LANL’s ability to recruit and retain employees. To diversify our economy and enable small business growth, we need more housing inventory for the non-LANL workforce. To foster more diversity in our community, we need more housing options in the entry and middle price segments. To enjoy the benefits of a good school system, local university, health care services, day care options, and cultural amenities, we need more housing options for the employees of these organizations.
Therefore, all options should be thoughtfully pursued while considering years of studies, due diligence, and progress made so far. While we should streamline and expedite housing development on as many readily available vacant land parcels as possible (especially downtown and in White Rock), we need to do this judiciously by incorporating our Comprehensive and Master Plans, our community’s values, and our citizens’ input.
Our housing challenges are not new; we have needed more residential options in all price ranges for decades now. As a past director of the Chamber of Commerce and as a Realtor for 18 years, I saw first-hand how young people wanting to return to be closer to family or to start a career here were left with few options. Small business owners and senior citizens without a LANL pension have faced the same hurdles. During my time working for the County, I was part of teams working with DOE on land transfer negotiations. It was complicated then just as it is now, but we should at least acknowledge progress is being made, albeit slowly.
Finally, housing is a regional challenge; we should leverage programs and resources from our neighbors, the state, and federal agencies. Addressing housing opportunities will require additional partnerships with the Schools, UNM-LA, DOE/NNSA, and private land owners among others— not only in regard to land use agreements, but also in regard to infrastructure planning. We don’t want to fix one problem just to create new problems; more housing means more vitality, diversity, and hopefully less commuting off the hill, but it also means we’ll need more investments in our schools, roads, utility infrastructure, county services, etc. So, as we develop our housing plans, we must incorporate strategies for smart land use, infrastructure improvements, transportation, our environment, and preservation of open space. More housing doesn’t have to mean losing what we hold dear about Los Alamos.