“The lack of affordable housing leaves families homeless, so we know there needs to be a comprehensive spectrum of responses,” Amy Whitfield said in her first interview with KOB since being appointed housing and counselor Homelessness for the governorship.
“We need to increase affordable housing statewide, we need to drive new housing and housing development, and then we also need to target homelessness prevention and homelessness response,” she said.
Whitfield – who has served on the governor’s administration since 2019 and supports CYFD and the Office of African American Affairs – said housing and homelessness issues are not unique to Albuquerque.
“We’re seeing a shortage of affordable housing, we’re seeing a rise in homelessness across the state of New Mexico, we’re seeing it statewide, we know that increasing market housing rates really affects all New Mexicans,” she said.
Whitfield also said it’s important to recognize that homelessness goes beyond what people see on the street.
“Sometimes it seems like I can’t afford my rent now,” she said. “‘So I have to ask about programs and services.’ Sometimes it means I pay 40% or 50% of my income for housing and can’t afford other things. Sometimes it means that I live in a multi-generational house, not by choice, but out of necessity.”
That’s why one of Whitfield’s first plans of action is to help the Treasury Department allocate $20 million in federal grants to New Mexicans who need it most.
“I’ve already met with several applicants and heard from our local governments and non-profit organizations what they need to do to improve their service,” she said.
The governor’s office said the grantees would be announced in the next few weeks.
“Our priority right now is the legislature,” Whitfield said. “We work with nonprofits, we work with private agencies, we work with government programs, and we really can hear from everyone about what policy priorities should be.”
“I think we need policies that incentivize development,” she added. “We need guidelines that explore how programs can work better together. We need a policy that creates capital but also creates continued support for the development of affordable housing and housing for all New Mexicans.