NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico has seen almost a 50% increase in the homeless population in the last year. A report given to lawmakers on the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) outlines the lack of affordable housing as the state’s homeless population continues to grow. 

In the last year, the state’s homeless population jumped 48% with nearly 4,000 homeless people throughout New Mexico. The data points to a growing need for affordable housing.

Senator William Sharer said, “The biggest problem we have with housing is our own bureaucracy. It just gets in our way. Do I want safe housing? Yes, but if you make it so safe that nobody can afford it, it’s not safe housing. It’s just a building.”

The Legislative Finance Committee report presented on Tuesday at the Roundhouse showed since 2017, rent in New Mexico has increased by 70%, while average wage levels grew by just 15%. Each year, about half of the state’s homeless population is in Albuquerque. According to the report, the city is falling behind in transitioning people to permanent housing.

However, the city said it’s working on it.

Carol Pierce, the Director of Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services explained, “That’s part of our hotel strategy to create more affordable units, and we have purchased our first one, and we need to just keep that ball rolling.” 

A common argument at the Roundhouse is that a vast majority of the homeless population does not want to take advantage of the services or housing available. For those that do, LFC staff estimates New Mexico could benefit from another 859 permanent supportive housing units. That would cost an estimated $11.4 million annually.

The City of Albuquerque is anticipating the long-awaited gateway center to help thanks to its hub for community services. Pierce continued, “I think also what’s important is the array of services that we have at the Gibson Health Hub and at the Gateway will really help people navigate to where they need to go ultimately to housing.” 

The CEO of the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority said more than 50 multifamily projects with 4,300 units are under development or construction across the state.