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Albuquerque City Council Finance and Government Operations Committee defers housing discrimination ordinance

The Albuquerque City Council Finance and Government Operations Committee heard public comment regarding ordinance 22-16 Monday night, and decided to defer the legislation for 30 days.

This specific ordinance is directed at amending the Albuquerque human rights ordinance to prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income.

The ordinance describes the action of “discrimination based on source of income” as the practice of refusing to rent to a housing applicant because of that person’s lawful income, such as social security, pensons, alimony, or in the case of many individuals in Albuquerque, housing vouchers.

According to the Albuquerque Housing Authority, there are approximately 150 individuals currently in Albuquerque with active vouchers seeking housing.

Rachel Biggs, from Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless said the ordinance will help lessen the amount of people currently experiencing homelessness.

“Reducing such barriers to housing will go a long way to reducing visible homelessness in our communities and will help improve the health and safety of everyone here in our community.”

Also in attendance giving public comment was Paul Haidle, former Albuquerque Deputy City Attorney for Policy.

Haidle said the individuals using housing vouchers are disproportionately people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Haidle also added that this bill will help protect tenants and landlords.

Alan LeSeck, who spoke on behalf of the Apartment Association of New Mexico said a version of this legislation was already rejected by the state government.

“We believe there are many unintended consequences with this ordinance. There was a version of this bill that was rejected by the New Mexico State legislature last year. The House Judiciary Committee found tons of legal issues with creating a new class of discrimination and the length of time it would take to litigate such accusations.”

LeSeck highlighted the fact that owners would have to accept forms of payment that may not be guaranteed, like gifts and inheritance.

LeSeck ended his portion of the public comment section by saying owners' issue with the ordinance is more about the policy and not the renters.

“I really want to stress that our opposition is really about the policy and not with the participants of this program. We have many members who accept housing vouchers voluntarily and will continue to do so without new laws. I really look forward to continuing our conversation a  bout rental housing in Albuquerque.”

Councilor Brook Bassan, who is a co-sponsor on this bill along with Councilor Pat Davis remarked how there seems to be a divide between the renters and landlords.

“I’ve been meeting with a different variety of people from both sides of this situation and the reason I sponsored this legislation and it seems to me with what we’re trying to do here and I think there’s a way to find a middle ground.”

Bassan went on to say she wants to ensure this ordinance is not an overreach of city government.

Torri Jacobus, who is the Managing Attorney/Director at the Office of Civil Rights for the City of Albuquerque said this ordinance is not an overreach of local government.

“It’s not a state or federal overreach. The City of Albuquerque has done a really great job historically in leading the way in policy and law around the county. Our city human rights ordinance added fair housing protections well before the state and federal government did.” 

The committee decided to defer the ordinance for 30 days to allow more community involvement and help bridge the gap between renters and property owners.