Governor approves new funding for affordable housing - Albuquerque Journal

Governor approves new funding for affordable housing

In this file photo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham takes off her mask while announcing the end to the state’s mask mandate last month. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico will allocate about $25 million a year to a trust fund that supports affordable housing under legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The legislation, Senate Bill 134, won bipartisan support in the legislative session that ended last month.

“Every New Mexican deserves a safe, affordable and comfortable place to live, and this funding stream will make a real difference in the lives of New Mexicans, especially in rural areas of the state,” Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The measure requires the state to set aside 2.5% of its severance tax bonding capacity for New Mexico’s housing trust fund. Analysts for the Legislature estimate it will result in $24 million to $26 million flowing into the trust fund each year rather than going to other capital projects.

The trust fund is aimed at providing affordable housing, with an emphasis on helping people with low to moderate incomes.

The Mortgage Finance Authority, which administers the trust fund, reported to lawmakers this year that 118,000 households pay 30% or more of their income toward housing costs while another 101,000 pay 50% or more – a situation worsened by the pandemic.

Rent in Albuquerque grew nearly 19% over the last year, outpacing the nationwide increase, the agency said.

Median home sale prices in New Mexico climbed 57% in a five-year period, reaching $291,000 in November, the Mortgage Finance Authority said.

The sponsors of the bill – Sen. Nancy Rodriguez of Santa Fe and Rep. Nathan Small of Las Cruces, both Democrats – said it will have a ripple effect on the lives of families.

“Access to affordable housing is an incredibly important factor in positively influencing an individual or family’s stability, health and well-being,” Rodriguez said.

Small said the money will go toward “new construction, energy efficiency and rehabilitation that will make a world of difference for many lower and middle income families across our state.”

The Senate passed the bill 37-3, and it won House approval on a 51-15 vote.

Severance tax bonds allow the state to borrow money and repay it with tax revenue from oil, gas or other material taken out of the ground.

The governor signed another measure Thursday that had won broad support in the Legislature – House Bill 135, which is intended to prevent the arbitrary removal of Native American children from their tribes and homes.

Children, Youth and Families Secretary Barbara Vigil said the bill is an “unprecedented milestone towards preserving the important cultural connection of Indian children in our child welfare system.”

Lujan Grisham has until Wednesday to act on bills passed in the final days of the session. Among the proposals awaiting action are the state budget, a crime package, expansion of a college scholarship program and tax cuts.

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