Housing and Homelessness Top Governor’s Agenda

4 min read

In a concerted effort to address the housing crisis plaguing New Mexico, advisors to the governor have spent the past year devising a comprehensive plan. The ambitious initiative, spearheaded by a $500 million investment, aims to provide tangible solutions to the state’s pressing housing challenges.

Amy Whitfield, the housing and homelessness policy advisor for the governor’s office, has been at the forefront of this endeavor. Her year-long efforts involved consultations with national experts and extensive discussions with stakeholders across the state. Whitfield outlined the governor’s multifaceted approach, with a significant focus on the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund.

“The New Mexico housing trust fund, which we also asked to put $250 million in, that’s really where we help affordable housing. We can increase the amount of affordable housing for low-income people throughout our state,” explained Whitfield.

Half of the $500 million initiative is earmarked for the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund, a strategic move to bolster affordable housing options for the state’s low-income residents. The remaining $250 million is intended to incentivize private companies to participate in the development of affordable housing.

Integral to the housing initiative is the Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA), which has formulated its own strategies. One key recommendation from the MFA suggests the establishment of a state office of housing.

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“Someone who can really move forward with all of those policy recommendations. And make sure that the state is working in spaces where housing financing agencies,” added Whitfield.

To translate this recommendation into action, Democratic Party Sen. Michael Padilla has proposed Senate Bill 71, seeking to implement the much-needed office of housing. The proposed office would be dedicated to disseminating best practices to communities statewide, allowing for a tailored approach to address diverse housing needs.

“Essentially, this office would be focused on taking all of those best practices and making them available to all communities. And then, you know, it’s kind of like a cafeteria-style menu. You pick what works best for your community because one size does not fit all,” emphasized Sen. Padilla.

While the proposed office of housing has garnered support, some Republican lawmakers express hesitancy about the creation of a centralized government office. Sen. Gregg Schmedes voiced concerns, stating, “Another office of government, which is centralized in Santa Fe, to go down and look over someone’s shoulder that’s doing zoning in Hobbs doesn’t make much sense to me, and I think it’s a mistake.”

Despite differing opinions, there is a shared acknowledgment that more support is required to address the housing crisis. Schmedes acknowledged the delicate balance needed to avoid inflationary pressures resulting from increased outside funding.

“We have a vested interest in that. We do have to balance, though, because the more outside money that comes into that system can become inflationary, which is one of the root causes of the problems right now why supply is so low,” cautioned Sen. Schmedes.

Homewise, an organization dedicated to creating affordable housing, supports the proposed legislation. Homewise CEO Mike Loftin expressed optimism about the impact of the $500 million investment, stating, “It’ll make a huge difference. We’ve never invested that kind of money in NM ever.”

Loftin also commended the bipartisan consensus on acknowledging the housing problem and working collaboratively to find solutions. “It feels really good that there’s a consensus — hey, we got a problem, let’s work on it together. And I think both sides of the aisle can work together,” Loftin remarked.

In addition to the $500 million investment, the governor’s executive budget allocates $40 million for additional services aimed at assisting people experiencing homelessness, demonstrating a comprehensive and compassionate approach to addressing housing challenges in New Mexico.

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