NAME OF SYSTEMIC CHANGE PROJECT: Tierra Madre Sustainable Community

PROJECT ADDRESS: PO Box 1768, Sunland Park, New Mexico 88063


The Program established an alternative, self-sustaining and intercultural community that addressed the needs of people living n poverty, as well as the degradation of the earth along the border of the United States and Mexico. It proves affordable housing (straw bale houses) and preservation of the environment by working on creative alternatives (passive solar energy), water harvesting, etc. Tierra Madre was named “best practice” by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) because of the work of the families.

A Spanish-speaking, Mexican-American community of about 15,000 people whose median income for a family of four is roughly $12,500, Sunland Park lies on the southern edge of New Mexico on the border of Mexico next to El Paso, Texas. The Sunland Park area has a rapidly growing population and a critical need for housing. Very little affordable land is available. Trailer homes are the predominant form of affordable housing stock, and are very expensive to heat and cool. In addition their value depreciates quickly. The citizens of Sunland Park have a long-standing concern for the environment and quality of life for future generations.

Sisters Joan Brown, Jean Miller and two of her fellow members of Sisters of Charity founded the Tierra Madre Land Trust in 1998. In organizing the land trust, they relied on the expertise of many professionals in the region, including attorneys, engineers, and architects who all volunteered their time. In addition, from the outset, the Tierra Madre model has involved the families it serves at every stage of the project.

The Tierra Madre Land Trust uses the HOME funds it receives from the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority to help run a community-based land trust. The land trust developed a community of nearly 50 units of solar-based housing in straw bale construction. This housing provides needed standard housing to low-income residents in a way that supports the community’s environmentally conscious goals. The state supports this approach to affordable housing because it generates high quality, cost-effective, permanent housing, and it is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient. In addition to housing, Tierra Madre offers supportive services tailored to the needs of each individual or family, such as services fro disabled residents and classes n English for those with limited English proficiency. (Continued)

Tierra Madre serves as a model for alternative affordable housing strategies. With its groundbreaking use of green building techniques, combined with its ability to provide extensive services to homeowners, Tierra Madre has demonstrated that acute needs for affordable housing can be met, while addressing other pressing community needs. The Keys to its success are the vision of its founders, the reliance on the expertise and volunteer services of professionals in the region and the creation of partnerships with many local foundations and surrounding residents and businesses.

The project did not totally eradicate poverty because most of the jobs in which the residents are engaged provide only minimum wage and even this is at risk during the economic downturn. However the residents are capable of developing economic strategies and are still designing them. Residents in this job-poor area have created economic alternatives for themselves by learning marketable straw bale building and permaculture skills. They also have space for growing food and a sense of community during difficult times. People who were initially afraid to speak, began speaking before the City Council, to groups that are interested in the replicating the project and to potential funders.

For more information: Google “Tierra Madre Sustainable Community”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.