Income level does not determine a person’s value or level of morality.

Nor should a community be closed to new people.

Why, then, do the ideas of apartments and someone with a lower income living nearby seem to terrify many people in Rio Rancho, especially when apartment tenants must pass background checks?

Over and over in public meetings, some people with nice homes on large lots fight proposed development of apartment complexes and neighborhoods with smaller lots.

Some concerns, like traffic, are legitimate, should be addressed and can often be mitigated with infrastructure improvements.

Others are based on understandable but inaccurate beliefs, such as the idea that smaller lots automatically decrease the value of existing homes or that apartments create more traffic than retail businesses.

Other complaints seem to arise from an assumption that anyone who can’t afford a large home on a half-acre lot detracts from the community.

This prejudice is inaccurate and unacceptable.

We don’t believe everyone with a nice house on a big lot thinks this way. We’re addressing the very vocal portion of big-house-big-lot residents who do have that attitude.

That prejudice was particularly pronounced March 25 when developers asked for a vacant commercial lot to be rezoned for multi-family housing during a Rio Rancho Governing Body meeting.

Residents of the luxurious development across Loma Colorado Boulevard insisted crime would increase, they wouldn’t be safe outside, their children had high chances of being spied on and they wouldn’t be able to have community spirit if the apartments were built. Those ideas would be legitimate if a prison with poor security was proposed.

That was not the case.

Prospective apartment tenants would have had to pass background checks to show no adult or minor in the household had felony or violent crimes on their records or used illegal drugs. Their income would have had to meet minimum and maximum limits.

In other words, the apartments would have been for responsible, law-abiding citizens in entry-level or service-industry jobs or retired people without great pensions.

By the way, this purposed apartment development has income requirements of at least $13.96 an hour for a single person or at least $19.93 an hour for a family for four. That is more than what many entry-level jobs in Rio Rancho pay.

Opponents of affordable housing, do you not remember what it was like early in your career? Do you think people who can afford half-million-dollar homes are immune to bad behavior while people who can’t are doomed to it?

Two recent affordable apartment complex proposals — one approved and one denied — would accommodate new firefighters, police officers and teachers, as well as grocery store workers, medical assistants and so forth.

They’re the people whose work keeps society running in the pandemic and who most Rio Ranchoans support in their professional roles. Will you reject them in their personal lives by opposing housing they can afford?

Change can be scary. It can also be beneficial.

We’re disappointed the governing body voted down the Loma Colorado apartments without looking for solutions to the traffic problems — which would be worse if the lot was developed under existing retail zoning — and that some would-be neighbors prejudged apartment residents.

Get to know people whose lives are different from yours and welcome them into the community. You might learn you have more in common, and like each other better, than you think.