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Senator Martin Heinrich visits Las Cruces to speak on affordable housing projects

Senator Martin Heinrich sits in on an affordable housing meeting at Las Cruces City Hall.
Jonny Coker
Senator Martin Heinrich sits in on an affordable housing meeting at Las Cruces City Hall.

Yesterday, Senator Martin Heinrich visited Las Cruces to speak with community leaders about housing needs in Doña Ana County.

At the meeting, Senator Heinrich said that it’s crucial for the federal government to prioritize affordable housing due to the rising cost of living in the U.S.

“One of the things that we’re doing right now is that we’re working the budget process. I sent a letter to the president saying that we really need to look at all the pieces and parts in the federal budget that facilitate housing and prioritize those,” he said. “This is an issue that’s hitting communities all across the country. And then we need to look for new solutions as well.”

Heinrich also said that government at all levels should incentivize citizens to study trades rather than just 4-year degrees.

“I think we need a national focus on skilled trades again and really recognize that that’s an important part of an advanced economy’s education system,” he said. “A four-year degree or even an advanced degree is not for everyone, and there are people who can best serve their community and their country by becoming an electrician, by becoming a plumber, becoming a carpenter. And we need to lift these people up because we need them now more than ever.”

Las Cruces City Councilor Joana Bencomo was also in attendance at the meeting. She said that she was happy with Heinrich’s visit, but more can always be done on a legislative level to help individuals in need of affordable housing.

“If you talk to our housing staff, they have been getting calls almost every day on [people] getting evicted [that] don’t know what to do. The burden is really on the tenant,” she said. “They have very few rights in this state and I think that’s one of the changes that some representatives are trying to make at the state level that didn’t go through. For us, what we can affect is that moving forward, a source of income discrimination ordinance that hopefully will come to vote [in] council pretty soon so that landlords cannot discriminate against potential tenants because they may have a housing voucher, for example.”

Bencomo said that in terms of the unhoused population in the city, her solution moving forward is to focus on more affordable housing with supportive services for the community.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.