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Case Study: Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority, Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico

Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority

Case study topic & focus
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

Service area
Sandoval and Santa Fe counties, New Mexico

Number of tribal citizens

Indian Housing Block Grant

Annual budget

Number of employees
Seven Full Time


The Santo Domingo Tribal Housing Authority (SDTHA) is a nonprofit developer that plans, designs, develops, and manages affordable housing for the community of Santo Domingo. Established in 1995, the SDTHA is the pueblo’s tribally designated housing entity (TDHE) that provides affordable, safe, culturally tailored, sustainable, and healthy housing to the community.

The Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo is a traditional pueblo located on the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Its people have a rich local culture that has not been overwhelmed by the outside influences brought to the area by Spanish colonization, the railroad in the 19th century, or Route 66 in the 20th century.

Residents of the pueblo, approximately 3,000, maintain their traditional religious practices and social structure. The center portion of the old Pueblo Village is on the National Register of Historic Places and is still occupied by tribal members who actively use its historic plaza for the pueblo’s annual Green Corn Dance each August 4, as well as the sacred kiva spaces and historic church.

Project description

The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program was created in 1986 as a U.S. Treasury and IRS program to leverage federal tax credits to draw in private capital for the creation and rehabilitation of affordable housing across the nation. Section 42 of the IRS code spells out the requirements of the program.

Under this program, all units constructed or acquired and rehabilitated under this program must remain as rentals for a period of 15 years (the compliance period). At the end of 15 years, the investor (private capital) has received its full tax benefits from the project, and the units may be converted from rental to home ownership. Approval for this conversion is required by the state housing finance agency, which typically administers the program on behalf of the federal government.

The benefits of extensive community planning, culminating in a development master plan has supported not only housing, but also community facilities such as schools, a fire station, and neighborhood walking paths.

In 1999-2001, SDTHA built 20 LIHTC rental homes on a 13-acre tract, one of the first tribal LIHTC developments in New Mexico. Now that compliance period has expired, the SDTHA has the option of continuing a rental program or can convert the housing units to homeownership.

With this successful project as a model, in 2017 the SDTHA launched a 41-unit LIHTC development with the same option of potential homeownership possibilities once the 15-year rental compliance period has expired. This new development, called Domingo Housing, provides one- to four-bedroom units (736 square feet to 1,415 square feet) to accommodate various family sizes. A variety of income levels also are incorporated into the rentals based on family size and income, with rents ranging from $279 to $725.

Promising approach

SDTHA has studied many financing models to address both the rehabilitation of older units and the construction of new units at the Pueblo.

A key factor to SDTHA’s success has been leveraging its NAHASDA housing block grant with other mainstream housing and economic development funding sources to create a more robust financial partnership around community development.

The benefits of extensive community planning, culminating in a development master plan has supported not only housing, but also community facilities such as schools, a fire station, and neighborhood walking paths.


  • Housing in the Pueblo has been quite scarce and housing options extremely limited. With new developments, tribal members now have the option of living on the pueblo in a home that suits their families’ needs.
  • The rental period is an excellent time for tribal members to establish creditworthiness and learn the responsibilities of maintaining a property.
  • The option of conversion from rental units to home ownership is a local tribal decision, based on the unique needs and circumstances of the community.
  • Larger four-bedroom units were built to accommodate larger families (22 percent of total units).

Lessons learned

  • Key ingredients for success include planning for development and site selection with cultural linkages to the community and the pueblo’s Historic Plaza.
  • An important leverage tool is mainstream funding sources for future development partnerships.
  • Frequent and focused community engagement is essential to good outcomes.

Ongoing challenges

  • Funding in all programs is very competitive and may take several attempts to be successfully funded.
  • Infrastructure is expensive and will continue to be a challenge in locating new projects.
  • Keeping a core group of reliable development team members for future development.
  • Planning a communitywide wastewater system plan for potential future housing in the
    Domingo area.

On the horizon

A future 60-unit affordable housing development is under discussion, with a focus on planning guidelines and identifying sites. Housing prototypes are being reviewed for two-, three- and four-bedroom sizes.

The SDTHA also has a deep commitment to the Historic Plaza and to rehabilitating the homes around the plaza in a culturally sensitive manner using traditional building materials and practices.