New Mexico

Senate Bill 99 To Lift Prohibition On Rent Control Falters

The roundhouse in Santa Fe. post file photo

BY DANIEL J. CHACÓN
Santa Fe’s new Mexican

Jason Santos weighed about 185 pounds when he moved to New Mexico in August.

Today, the University of New Mexico graduate student is about 45 pounds lighter.

It wasn’t voluntary.

Santos, 24, told lawmakers, who are considering a bill to overturn a rent control ban on Wednesday, that he skipped meals to ensure he had a roof over his head.

“I’m not the only one,” he said. “There are a lot of students like me who have to make a choice between paying rent or eating food.”

Members of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee acknowledged that New Mexico has a housing problem but said rent control is not the long-term solution.

After two hours of discussion and debate, the committee voted 6-2 to pass Senate Bill 99.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said the bill, which would remove the ban on rent controls and allow counties and municipalities to decide for themselves, would create a “patchwork of rules and regulations across the state.” ” create. The result, he said, was that all housing development in cities and counties would be done without rent controls.

Ortiz y Pino said the state government needs to incentivize affordable housing development instead.

“It’s going to cost money, but we have money,” he said, referring to record earnings forecasts for the upcoming fiscal year that include $3.6 billion in so-called new money.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, both Democrats from Albuquerque, had the backing of the Peoples Housing Project, which describes itself as a grassroots movement of volunteers leading the campaign to end the statewide ban of rent control.

It also drew opposition from the New Mexico Association of Realtors and the Apartment Association of New Mexico.

“I appreciate where the sponsors are trying to go, but we all know that affordable housing in New Mexico is the real underlying problem, and we need more of it,” said Brent Moore, a lobbyist for the Realtors’ Association.

“New Mexico has a lot of problems,” he added. “In my opinion, bringing the debate about the rental price brake into the discussion leads in the wrong direction. I think we should try to refocus on initiatives that lead us to more affordable housing.”

Moore pointed to the report on the tax implications of the bill, which said New Mexico is among 37 states that ban or prevent rent controls.

“If investors want to build homes, they’re more likely to go to most states that have some sort of right of first refusal or ban on rent controls,” he said. “The real problem with the rental price brake is that it ultimately leads to stagnation.”

Sen. Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, who voted against the motion along with Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said she didn’t think the rent control would “hinder business.”

“Those who don’t want an apartment here in New Mexico and have renters have that choice,” she said. “Someone else will come here.”

Serge Martinez, a UNM law professor, told the committee the rent control ban was 30 years old.

“It’s a law that was passed at a time when there wasn’t a discussion about rent controls in New Mexico,” he said. “It wasn’t a hot topic. It came to New Mexico as part of a wave of similar legislation across the country by a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington business that makes a living writing these bills that attempt to empower local communities to withdraw.”

Martinez said the ban ties governments’ hands.

“Now, 30 years later, we find that counties and cities in a real crisis are being told, ‘You cannot consider all possible tools to solve this crisis,'” he said. “This is contrary to the Home Rule jurisdictions that we have across the state.”

After the motion was approved, Lopez told the committee room she was disappointed.

“Sometimes short-term solutions are needed to solve the problem at hand,” she said. “Sometimes what I see here in Santa Fe is that we’re looking at the long term, but we also want to see the power we have in our hands to try and make change happen [immediately] because people are hurting right now.”

Anna Lee DeSaulniers, an organizer with the Peoples Housing Project, said thousands of renters are “extremely burdened with costs” and need help.

“That was necessary some time ago,” he said, referring to the rental price brake. “So many people have already found themselves in very desperate situations… We have [heard of] $600 increased. We’ve seen double rent increases. And right now, as long as this ban is in place, which is very undemocratic, there is no cap on how much landlords can charge us.”

DeSaulniers said housing should be a human right.

“Renters need to have more protection,” she said. “We need to put our communities ahead of the profits of big developers and landlords.”

Continue to follow Daniel J. Chacón Twitter @danieljchacon.

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