NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The housing shortage for low-income renters is a problem the state of New Mexico is no stranger to. However, the issue is heightened due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. New Mexico is digging into federal CARES Act funding and putting it toward Emergency Rental Assistance Programs that can help pay back rent and utilities or even upcoming rent.
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A report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition draws on data from 2019, showing this has been a problem in New Mexico for years. “In New Mexico, there were only 53 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renters in the state,” explains Dan Threet, a research analyst for the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Now, the shortage of affordable and available homes is putting a strain on people’s income. Threet explains, “Forced to spend more than 30% or even 50% of their income on rent every month, that means they need to cut back on basic necessities like food, health care, transportation, and educational opportunities for their children.”
That’s why New Mexico’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program is using the last bit of CARES Act money to help New Mexicans who have fallen behind on rent or utilities. They work with landlords and utility companies to help families stay in their current homes.
Henry Valdez is a spokesperson for ERAP. He shares, “We’re going to pay them whatever they owe, we’re going to catch them up. Hopefully, pay directly to the landlord or to the utility company.”
The program pays up to twelve months of back rent or utilities, as well as up to three months of future rent or utilities. “Right now, we’ve awarded over $50 million to about, I think, over 13,000 families, or 13,000 households,” says Valdez.
In order to be eligible for the rental assistance program, you must be a renter in New Mexico falling within the 80% average median income. You must also be impacted directly or indirectly by COVID-19.
Every household can receive multiple awards within each application. ERAP is also working to help people find temporary housing through hotels and shelters. You can apply for the emergency rental assistance program here.