Vacation rentals and Texans’ second homes would be taxed more under proposed bill

Cap on property taxes wasn’t meant for people who can afford to buy up investment properties, Rep. McQueen says

By: - January 19, 2022 6:00 am

The New Mexico House of Representatives, pictured Dec. 6, in Santa Fe. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source New Mexico)

A bipartisan bill introduced this legislative session aims to collect more in taxes from owners of properties used for AirBnB, and as second or third homes here.

New Mexico caps the increase on assessed property value at 3% each year. It’s a policy meant to prevent owners from being driven out of their homes by high property taxes, which are based on the value of their houses.

The 20-year-old cap has meant that longtime homeowners have not seen sudden, huge increases in their property taxes if they live in a neighborhood that is suddenly popular, like in parts of Albuquerque or Santa Fe.

But critics say it is also a giveaway to property owners who can afford the property taxes and are often driving that neighborhood change. And it burdens low-income property owners with an unfair share of the tax levy, said Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo), the bill’s sponsor.

State Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Santa Fe).

Residences that are used for short-term rentals like AirBnB — which can drive up property values and displace residents — shouldn’t get the benefit of the tax, McQueen said. Neither should wealthy out-of-staters, like those from Texas or California, who buy their second or third home here, he said.

“To me, it’s a fairness issue,” he said, and if people can afford that second home out in a gated Santa Fe community, they don’t need the benefit of this 3% cap.

“I mean, that’s not what it was intended for,” McQueen said. “It was intended to protect people who were struggling to stay in their homes — not buying up investment properties.”

The bill would increase the cap on assessments from 3% to 10% on “a residential property that is not occupied as a principal place of residence,” beginning in 2024.

McQueen has introduced versions of this bill over the last several years, though 2022’s is slightly different. Last year, it passed the House of Representatives as part of a suite of tax changes, though it did not pass the Senate.

Past versions would have increased the cap on properties not lived in by the owner, which would include rental properties. But McQueen said housing advocates and others fought against that provision, saying that owners would simply pass any property tax increase onto tenants, many of whom are already struggling to pay rent in a hot rental market here.

An MIT dissertation found in October 2018 that about 80 to 90% of property tax increases on rental properties are paid by renters.

About one-third of all residences in the state are not occupied by the owner, according to a Legislative Finance Committee evaluation of McQueen’s 2020 bill. There were 943,208 residential properties in the state in 2018, according to the analysis, and 637,609 of them were owner-occupied.

The analysis also concluded that the bill’s effect on local tax revenues would vary widely across the state, which has many towns and counties where market values are increasing less than 3%, anyway. The bill’s effects would overall be “very moderate” on local governments’ revenues, according to the report.

Governor adds rent reform to packed session schedule, but one big provision missing, advocates say

A 2021 report on a similar version of the bill found that the changes could generate $8 million for local governments when it goes into effect.

This year, McQueen took out the language that would have made his bill applicable to rental properties, and he found a Republican co-sponsor — Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho.) Harper did not respond to a request for comment.

McQueen said he hopes the bill will have a better shot this year, though he acknowledged that the 2022 session is packed. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has included one housing reform bill on her call but has not listed housing as one of her major priorities.

This year’s bill has not yet been evaluated for how much tax revenue it would generate.

The housing bill touted by advocates this year gives tenants more time to come up with rent once they are served with an eviction notice, among other changes, and has the support of tenant advocates and the Apartment Association of New Mexico, which advocates for landlords and property owners.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.

Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.