ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A proposed city ordinance would force landlords to consider or accept applicants who plan to pay rent with supplemental income like social security, child support, or housing vouchers. The city believes it will help people find stable housing – landlords say it’s a recipe for disaster.
“Money is money and it still pays the bills,” says Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis. Davis and City Councilor Brook Bassan are proposing a change to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance to make landlords turning down people who plan to pay their rent with anything other than a typical paycheck – like alimony, social security, housing vouchers, or other types of public assistance – a case of discrimination.
“What we found was some landlords sort of have this stigma that maybe people on public assistance might be bad tenants,” says Davis.
But landlords say they’re already working with hundreds of people on vouchers. “We have over 400 vouchers in our system so it’s not like we’re not dealing from a point of knowledge and understanding of how these work but they’re not for everyone,” says Chuck Sheldon from the Apartment Association of New Mexico.
Sheldon says while some property owners have the capital to accept vouchers, others – like mom and pop operations – don’t. “You’re waiting up to 60-90 days to get your first check. So now, you’re out four months while wading through the process,” Sheldon says. “Well, you still have to make mortgage payments every month.”
He says forcing property owners to accept vouchers will hurt the majority of renters. “You end up putting on more constraints as to say ‘okay, your credit score, how do they add up? Did you have an eviction?'” says Sheldon. “You raise your rents and the vouchers don’t cover it.”
Sheldon also says a discrimination case is a serious and costly allegation that can take months to resolve.
However, Davis says an ordinance like this is necessary as rents keep rising. “We’re trying to get ahead of what we know is going to be a looming housing crisis,” he says.
The Apartment Association says a similar bill was introduced in the last state legislative session, but it failed. This proposed ordinance will next be heard in the Finance Committee in mid-April.