Housing supply

Lawmakers try to protect renters while increasing housing supply

New Mexico is short on housing, affordable or not, and rents are rising. Tenants have few options.

On the opening day of this 30-day legislative session, tenant advocates demonstrated outside the Roundhouse demanding that lawmakers do more to protect tenants. Among other things, they wanted rent control.

A rent control bill came to nothing in last year’s session, but a bill would give tenants more coverage. Other bills address the issue from a market perspective.

For the record, I was a tenant and owner.

House Bill 65 would give tenants more time to catch up on payments after receiving an eviction notice. More importantly, it would prohibit landlords from terminating (or not renewing) tenancy agreements during a declared emergency or disaster, which has allowed some landlords to circumvent a Supreme Court ban on evictions. during the pandemic, according to Source New Mexico.

The bill’s sponsors consulted with the New Mexico Apartment Association during the development of the bill, so it is not hostile to landlords and it carries the governor’s blessing.

Currently, if tenants fall behind, they only have three days to pay. Once an eviction notice is filed, they can be out on the streets within a week.

HB 65 stops short of prohibiting “discrimination based on source of income,” in which landlords refuse to rent to anyone who pays with government-subsidized vouchers. This form of discrimination is illegal in all but 19 states. Such a ban would also have prevented landlords from refusing pandemic-related rental assistance.

The last time I wrote about this, I found landlords complaining that their tenants refused to ask for the money because they couldn’t be evicted, and some tenants saying that their landlords refused to cooperate with their request. Many did not understand how the state’s emergency rental assistance program worked. Source New Mexico said landlords are still turning down rent assistance so they can replace tenants with higher-paying customers.

Legislators have also recognized that housing is an issue for employers and economic development. The attraction of new businesses will depend on the ability of workers to find acceptable accommodation.

The bipartisan House Memorial 9 is calling on the state’s Construction Industries Division to convene a task force to study housing availability and improve the construction industry’s interactions with the government. We often hear that there is a shortage of building inspectors. And building permits can be a waste of time. Both cause delays, increase costs and reduce housing availability.

In Senate Bill 19, Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, calls on the state to invest $70 million in the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund, established in 2005 to provide flexible funding for housing initiatives. The Mortgage Finance Authority would use the money to acquire, build, rehabilitate, finance or protect affordable housing. The agency estimates that 4,578 affordable housing units could be created.

The supply of affordable housing has steadily declined, according to a legislative analysis. In New Mexico, 117,613 households pay more than 30% of family income for housing, and another 100,858 pay half or more. The state is 32,000 units short and thousands more without full kitchens or plumbing.

“It’s a perfect year to do something meaningful that transforms the people of New Mexico,” Rodriguez told New Mexico In Depth. She is in a key position to achieve this as Chair of the Interim MFA Act Oversight Committee and Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committees.

Rodriguez also wants more than a one-time investment. In SB 134, she teams up with Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces and vice chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, to seek severance tax bonding capacity for the housing trust fund. . This would stabilize the fund and generate $27.7 million in the next fiscal year.

It’s a good set of short-term and long-term solutions. Maybe rent control will be useless.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Lawmakers try to protect renters while increasing housing supply