City staff introduced a resolution that would adopt an affordable housing plan to the Rio Rancho Governing Body at the Sept. 28 city council meeting.

The governing body unanimously passed the resolution, but there is still a ways to go before an affordable housing plan is completely accepted by the city.

“The city of Rio Rancho is subject to the New Mexico Affordable Housing Act and New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority Act. The Affordable Housing Act identifies specific requirements, including the adoption of an affordable housing plan and implements the provisions of Subsections E and F of §14 of Article 9 of the New Mexico Constitution; the city, in conjunction with the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority, has developed a plan for adoption and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority has reviewed and approved of the form and terms of the city’s plan prior to final adoption hereof,” the resolution states.

According to an executive summary by the city, due to the rapid increase in home sale prices and rental rates, city residents have begun to voice concerns about housing affordability. In a citywide survey conducted in 2022, 74% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “finding housing that is affordable is a problem in the city of Rio Rancho.”

Survey respondents recognized that the city’s economy benefits when housing is affordable for both low-income and higher-income earners. Respondents indicated that schools benefit when students have stable housing and families benefit when they can spend more of their income on education, health care and child care. Respondents also agreed that the local tax base improves when corporations choose to relocate or expand in Rio Rancho because they know that their employees will be able to find housing that is affordable.

The plan identifies several conditions that impact the availability and affordability of housing in the city, including:

• The majority of Rio Rancho’s existing housing inventory consists of single-family detached homes, and more than 75% of all homes have at least three bedrooms. The lack of housing types that offer smaller square footage on smaller parcels of land — duplexes, townhomes and triplexes or even larger apartment buildings — means that many potential renters and homebuyers are unable to afford to move into the city.

• The nature of Rio Rancho’s early (pre-incorporation) development is negatively impacting its potential to develop new housing units in a cost-effective manner. Specifically, it can be prohibitively expensive for developers to construct infill housing in Rio Rancho since many subdivisions are not supported by adequate infrastructure. Additionally, it can be difficult for subdivision developers to acquire a sufficient amount of land, since fewer than 100 parcels of consolidated undeveloped land consisting of more than 10 acres are available in the city.

• Rio Rancho’s original inventory of housing stock is beginning to show its age. More than half of the city’s housing inventory was constructed before the year 2000. Many of these original “starter homes” were constructed poorly and are beginning to experience significant repair needs.

The plan also identifies numerous opportunities for Rio Rancho to implement strategies that address the conditions that impact the availability and affordability of housing in the city, including:

• Preserve existing single-family housing that is occupied by current city residents by coupling code enforcement activity with resources that help homeowners repair and maintain their homes.

• Preserve existing renter-occupied single-family housing by developing a single-family rental registration and inspection ordinance. A rental registration and inspection ordinance will help the city identify the location and condition of single-family rental properties. Thereafter, the city can design an incentive program to encourage landlords to repair and maintain their properties.

• Spur development of housing on vacant or underutilized parcels by creating a land swap/land banking program that allows the city to sell city-owned land to developers who agree to build housing that is affordable to families earning a range of incomes.

• Encourage development of “starter homes” and other forms of affordable housing by providing public financing to support housing development.

• Add additional housing units to existing neighborhoods by helping homeowners navigate the process of building a backyard casita or a garage conversion.

  • Speed up housing development by removing unnecessary regulatory barriers to developing a range of housing types and encourage more new housing development by modifying land use regulations so that more dense forms of housing can be developed throughout the city.

“So the next steps after tonight, assuming that this plan is adopted by resolution, we will send our the plan back to the New Mexico Finance Authority. We will also come in November for the first reading of an ordinance for the affordable housing itself. So like any other type of item that development services brings forward where we start with the resolution instead of the plan set up the foundation and then we come in with resolution to actually have the way to implement and move forward with those efforts. So that will be the first reading in November with our second reading scheduled for December,” Department Director of Development Services Amy Rincon said.

The resolution was passed, so the plan will be returned to the New Mexico Finance Authority.