Action Alert: Support legislation to strengthen housing stability in NM!

All New Mexicans need access to housing

On Monday at 1:30 p.m., the Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee will consider House Bill 111, which would modernize our housing laws to strengthen housing stability, reduce barriers to housing, and establish a statewide entity for housing policy.

We need your help to provide public comment at the hearing in support of this bill!

New Mexico was already in a housing crisis before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless we take action now, there will be a tidal wave of evictions as soon as the public health emergency ends, threatening our health and economic recovery as a state.

New Mexico has some of the shortest eviction time frames in the U.S.—often too short to access rental assistance, resulting in tenants being evicted and landlords losing income even when rental relief is available. Other tenants face discrimination or even eviction when landlords reject rental assistance or other lawful sources of income used to pay rent.

HB 111 would stop this discrimination and expand the eviction timeframes to allow tenants to get caught up on their rent and stay in their homes.

Instructions:

When: 1:30 p.m., Monday, February 15

How to join: Please click the link below to join the webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89543370073 Or iPhone one-tap : US: +16699009128,,89543370073# or +12532158782,,89543370073# Or Telephone: Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 669 900 9128 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 Webinar ID: 895 4337 0073

What to expect during the hearing: The committee will be taking public comment. The chair of the committee (Gail Chasey) will announce the bill and ask who supports HB 111. At that time, to provide a comment use the Zoom reaction button and raise your hand. The Chair will call your name and unmute your zoom when it is your turn to speak.

HB 111 summary: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Factsheet-2.pdf
House Bill 111 modernizes the New Mexico housing code by: 1) improving the balance between the rights of landlords and the rights of tenants, so families who can pay rent and comply with their lease are not evicted, 2) reducing barriers to housing for New Mexicans using housing vouchers and other lawful sources of income such as social security income to pay rent, and 3) creating a statewide housing council to address housing policy and coordinate state resources directed to addressing housing in New Mexico.

Tips for public comment:

  • Keep your remarks brief and to the point. 
  • If you have a personal story about being unable to access housing because you pay rent with a voucher or other source of income that doesn’t come from a job, or you have a personal story about being evicted because you were temporarily behind on rent, please share it.
  • When you login to Zoom, please rename yourself with your full name so the moderator can find you easily.
  • Make sure you are not muted when you start speaking.
  • Do not rely on your computer or phone for notes. Write them down or print them, just in case your computer screen freezes.
  • Close other tabs and windows in your browser to make sure your connection is good.
  • If your connection or microphone doesn’t work, be prepared to call in with the information above.

Regulations on small loans law do not adequately protect borrowers

ALBUQUERQUE— The Financial Institutions Division issued regulations today implementing a state law that caps interest rates on storefront loans. The FID made almost no changes to the minimal regulations it proposed earlier this year, even though New Mexicans overwhelmingly asked the state to improve enforcement by collecting data on the industry, closing loan renewal loopholes, and requiring lenders to disclose the true costs of loans to borrowers and to make those disclosures in the language a borrower understands.

“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but unfortunately, these regulations completely fail to fulfill the legislature’s  primary intent to protect borrowers,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “In fact, they are so lacking in teeth that New Mexico families have no guarantees that the terms of their loans will be clearly explained to them. Worse still, the regulations are completely bare of mandatory data reporting requirements, which will make it impossible to verify that storefront lenders are actually following the law.”

Before passage of HB 347 in the 2017 legislative session, many small loans were unregulated and borrowers were frequently charged interest rates of 300 percent APR or more. Reforms to the Small Loan Act went into effect January 1, 2018, capping interest rates at 175 percent APR and eliminating traditional short-term payday and title loans.  All storefront and online loans made in 2018 must have a minimum loan term of 120 days, and require a minimum of four payments.

However, the FID did not issue regulations to reflect the new standards until today, a full eight months after the law went into effect. The regulations the division did issue do not require lenders to provide borrowers with meaningful information about the costs of their loans and the consumer protections required by the new law. The regulations also fail to address the need to make disclosures and financial information available in a language that the borrower understands.

“It’s unfortunate that New Mexico FID did not take the opportunity to include language assistance as part of the new regulations, knowing that a majority of border town small loans are from Navajo consumers. It is important that we continue to advocate for legal contracts to be explained in the Navajo language or any other language in which consumers are able to fully comprehend the contracts they are signing,” said Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

The new regulations also fail to close loopholes in loan renewals, which may extend old loan terms, leaving borrowers vulnerable to interest rates and fees that are now illegal under the law. In addition, the regulations do not require lenders to provide data on small loans, making it impossible to tell if storefront lenders are adhering to the law and how the law is impacting New Mexicans. The FID failed to explain why it elected to ignore the dozens of comments submitted by New Mexicans asking the division to enact meaningful consumer protections.

Without meaningful regulations and reporting requirements, the FID and legislators cannot verify that the consumer protections intended by the new law are reaching New Mexico families. This means that the small loan industry, which makes hundreds of millions of dollars from New Mexico families, will continue to operate without transparency.

“We’re pleased that the FID has, at long last, finalized and posted regulations to implement the 2017 law. However, these regulations do very little to address our concerns and lack the substantive consumer protections we have been advocating for,” said Michael Barrio, director of advocacy at Prosperity Works. “An appropriate regulatory framework that adequately addresses areas that allow lenders to continue to circumvent limitations and protections that have been put in place by the 2018 small loan reforms is absolutely necessary if we hope to honestly protect hard working New Mexicans from predatory lending practices.”

The finalized FID regulations can be found here: http://164.64.110.134/nmac/nmregister/adoptedxxix16

A factsheet on regulations the FID should enact to enforce the small loans act can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/fact-sheet-fid-must-enact-regulations-to-enforce-the-small-loans-act-2018-07/