SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A pair of lawmakers are moving to end the state’s ban on rent control. Senate Bill 99 is a rather short document—just one page. All it’s aiming to do is get rid of the ban on rent control legislation and let local governments decide for themselves.

Senate Bill 99 is not instituting saying you know a ten percent increase. There’s nothing in it; it’s just removing the prohibition. So that gives local government to work with their community, to give them an opportunity say you know if there’s this particular issue that exists, do we limit it to 10%? Cost of living increases? Whatever it may be,” said Senator Linda Lopez, (D-Albuquerque).

Senator Lopez says this is an issue that became apparent during the pandemic when people lost income or faced problems with their limited income and rising rent prices. “Of course, over time especially during COVID with a lot of persons who didn’t have access, you know, jobs, all of the issues on rent where there was support from the federal government. A lot of those issues surfaced and I began to receive more phone calls from constituents in my district. Those who are older women, those who are single parents, who have lost of course their incomes, veterans in the community just around Albuquerque specifically who had some concerns with even a $10 increase per month,” said Lopez.

Lopez says she’s been fielding calls from constituents and activist groups like the People’s Housing Project—a grassroots organization in Albuquerque—in support of this.

Anna Lee DeSaulniers, an organizer from the People’s Housing Project, says they see the introduction of Senate Bill 99 as a victory.

“We are tired of being price-gouged into these desperate situations. We know that homelessness has risen. And we have to connect the dots and see that landlords and developers price-gouging rental prices are definitely a factor in that…This is not going to enact rent control. This is going to expand democracy. So that we can decide in our own communities how we want to deal with the current housing crisis,” said DeSaulniers.

Lopez says she has also heard from people opposed to this idea: namely landlords who worry about their business. “We’re looking to see this as an opportunity to start the discussion. We really need to have a discussion since we talk about homelessness in the state of New Mexico. Some of our cities have some serious issues around homeless persons,” Lopez says, “If we can help put, how do I say, a stop to some of that potential movement, I think this is the way to go.”

“These large corporations, property management companies, are reporting record profits. And we know that that’s what they care about. But we have to put our people first. And that’s what I think should be guiding legislation. What we here at People’s Housing Project think should be guiding legislation,” said DeSaulniers.

A recent report shows rent prices in Albuquerque have grown 42% over the last two years. Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn had sponsored a memorial advocating for a repeal of this ban in October. That symbolic gesture was shot down by city council.