Last week, the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted to table Senate Bill 99. Sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez (D) of Albuquerque and Reps. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D) of Albuquerque and Angelica Rubio (D) of Las Cruces, Senate Bill 99 would have opened the door to cities and counties being able to enforce rent control.
New Mexico prohibits rent control on state and local levels, so landlords may charge whatever they deem reasonable for rent. As was stated by Anna Lee Desaulniers of the People’s Housing Project in her January 2022 letter to the Albuquerque Journal, “In 2020, median rent across New Mexico increased dramatically. In 2021, rent skyrocketed far beyond 2020, driving many into poverty and chronic homelessness. For many, renting is the only option, as housing prices are also soaring. The price of homes is at a historic level throughout our state. The result is that large sections of New Mexico residents, especially the most vulnerable, are rapidly being evicted by rising rents. Stable housing matters to students and learning, Overturn state’s profit-driven ban on rent control.”
With market rates for housing continuing to set record highs, it is the position of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) that the state should repeal the prohibition on rent control to ensure that low-, middle- and working-class families can continue to afford to live here.
ATF President Dr. Ellen Bernstien said, “We are deeply disappointed by the tabling of this bill. Affordable housing should be a basic right of all citizens across our state. It is crucial to our students and their families. As all educators know, housing security is part of the basic needs described in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that must be met for students to be ready to learn. This bill would have helped many of the families our educators serve in APS to attain that security.”
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), “Low-income children in affordable housing score better on cognitive development tests than those in unaffordable housing (Newman & Holupka, 2015). Researchers suggest that is partly because parents with affordable housing can invest more in activities and materials that support their children’s development (Newman & Holupka, 2014). Parents also are able to save more money for their children’s college tuition when they are not rent-burdened and are more likely to attend a parent-teacher conference (Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation, 2016).”
The NLIHC also states that low-income children “who switch schools frequently due to housing instability or homelessness tend to perform less well in school, have learning disabilities and behavioral problems, and are less likely to graduate from high school (Voight, Shinn, & Nation, 2012). When they grow up, they are also more likely to be employed in jobs with lower earnings and skill requirements (Fischer, 2015).”
With this in mind, we are particularly disappointed that, in a bipartisan move, the Democrat-led Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted 6-2 to table SB 99.
Republican Senator Gregg Schmedes (who happens to be a landlord) said he didn’t approve of SB 99 because it didn’t focus on “prosperity” and created an “us vs. them” mentality. Schmedes suggested instead that New Mexico can achieve affordable housing by fostering better relationships between landlords and tenants. As we have seen with soaring housing costs across New Mexico, this view is at best fantasy, at worst, profit-driven deceit.
While Democrat Senator Antonio “Moe” Maestas acknowledged that rent control in New York City has enabled low-income families to continue to live in the city despite constant eye-watering rent increases in market-rate housing, he ultimately voted against SB 99.
Dr. Bernstein continued, “We are truly saddened by this decision. We need our legislators to be on the side of working people in Albuquerque and all across New Mexico.”