As Albuquerque nears banning Section 8 discrimination, landlords raise concerns about inspections

The City Council is slated to take up the issue at Monday’s meeting

By: - June 2, 2022 4:30 am

An apartment for rent in Albuquerque (Photo by Marisa Demarco/Source NM)

As the city of Albuquerque mulls requiring landlords to accept tenants with Section 8 housing vouchers, property owners are raising concerns about housing agencies’ capacity to conduct inspections in a timely manner. 

A clean inspection is required by the Housing and Urban Development before anyone using Section 8 can move in. People with Section 8 vouchers pay 30% of their income toward rent, with the federal government paying the rest. The federal program helps people with low incomes afford housing wherever they deem fit. 

Albuquerque City Council meeting

Monday June 6, 5:00 p.m.

Albuquerque Government Center
Civic Plaza, Vincent E. Griego Chambers, Basement Level

But Albuquerque law allows landlords to decline to rent to people using Section 8. On Wednesday, 42 apartment listings on Craigslist contained the phrase “No Section 8.” 

There are about 350 people with Section 8 vouchers who are looking for housing, according to a city official, and the clock is ticking. The vouchers expire after 60 days, though a tenant can request a 30-day extension. 

On Monday, the Albuquerque City Council will take up a bill banning “source-of-income discrimination,” which would include Section 8 and other subsidies, like pandemic-related rent assistance. It’s also been legal for landlords to refuse rental assistance, often so they could go forward with an eviction, experts told Source New Mexico

Landlords refuse emergency rent money and Section 8 vouchers

In public comments to councilors, representatives with the N.M. Apartment Association said it takes a long time for a Section 8 inspection to be completed so they can accept people using the vouchers, and that would be a major problem if they were required to accept those tenants.

Various housing agencies like the Albuquerque Housing Authority and nonprofits like Catholic Charities perform so-called Housing Quality Standards inspections when a Section 8 tenant prepares to move into an apartment.

They conduct a new inspection each year after or if there’s a complaint. The inspections aim to ensure safe and sanitary conditions, and evaluate apartments or rental homes based on 13 factors, like lead-based paint, smoke detectors, or water and air quality. 

Brooke Bassan, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said at a committee meeting that landlords reported waiting three months for an inspection after agreeing to rent to someone using Section 8. But Abigail Stiles, a senior policy analyst for the Council, said she questioned the city’s housing agencies, who told her and found the longest wait times were no more than eight days. 

Regardless, Bassan said the inspections shouldn’t be such a burden on landlords. Bassan and co-sponsor Pat Davis tweaked the measure to require housing agencies to conduct inspections within five business days of someone selecting a home. If they don’t, a landlord can move on to find another tenant. 

“So that would make it where the organizations basically … have to kind of get their act together,” Stiles said.

She said only one or two organizations had difficulty getting inspections done in time — an issue she attributed to staffing shortages and high caseloads. 

The ordinance, if passed, would also allocate $100,000 to help agencies inspect homes more quickly. It also would allocate $150,000 to create a landlord-incentive program and conduct a housing discrimination study, plus another $50,000 for educational materials for landlords and agencies. 

A similar proposal was introduced in the 2021 legislative session, but it failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Correction:  A previous version of this story misstated the legislative history of a similar measure proposed at the state level. 

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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. Along the way, he's won several state and national awards for his reporting, including for an exposé on a cult-like Alcoholics Anonymous group and a feature on an Upstate New York militia member who died of COVID-19. He's thrilled to be back home in New Mexico, where he works to tell stories that resonate and make an impact.

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