New advisor lays out plan to address New Mexico housing, homelessness

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“When we don’t have affordable housing, that leads to families experiencing homelessness, and so we know that there needs to be a complete spectrum of response,” said Amy Whitfield in her first interview with KOB since being appointed the Housing and Homelessness advisor for the Office of the Governor.

“We need to increase affordable housing throughout the state, we need to increase development of new housing and housing options, and then we also need to target homelessness prevention and response to homelessness,” she said.

Whitfield — who has been serving in the governor’s administration since 2019,  offering support to CYFD and the Office of African American Affairs — said housing and homeless-related issues are not exclusive to Albuquerque.

“We are seeing lack of affordable housing, we are seeing an increase in homelessness throughout the whole entire state of New Mexico, we’re seeing it nationally, we know that the increase of the fair market rate for housing is really impacting all New Mexicans,” she said.

Whitfield also said it’s important to recognize that homelessness goes beyond what people see on the streets.

“Sometimes it looks like, ‘I can’t afford my rent now,’” she said. “’So I need to go ask for programs and services.’ Sometimes it means I’m paying 40% or 50% of my income to housing and can’t afford other things. Sometimes it means that I’m living in a multi-generational house, not by choice, but out of need.”

That’s why one of Whitfield’s first plans of action is to help the Department of Finance Administration give out $20 million in federal grants to New Mexicans who need it most.

“I’ve already been able to go and meet with several of the applicants and hear from our local governments and nonprofits what they need to do to increase their service,” she said.

The Office of the Governor said grant awardees will be announced in the next weeks.

“Our priority right now is the legislative session,” Whitfield said. “We are working with nonprofits, we’re working with private agencies, we’re working with state programs, and really being able to hear from all of them what should be policy priorities.”

“I think we need policies that incentivize development,” she added. “We need policies that look at how programs can work better together. We need policies that create capital, but also create ongoing support for the development of affordable housing and, and housing for all New Mexicans.