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25 million Blacks, Latinos missing from voter databases; major news organizations urge Biden and Trump to commit to presidential debates; NM gun-control advocates praise federal rule closing 'gun show loophole; Arkansas group raising awareness during Black Maternal Health Week.

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House Republicans want citizenship proof for federal election voting, under White House pressure Israel shows restraint after Iran's attack and Trump's hush money trial starts.

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Housing advocates fear rural low-income folks who live in aging USDA housing could be forced out, small towns are eligible for grants to enhance civic participation, and North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues.

NM Launches Eviction Prevention & Diversion Pilot Program

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022   

New Mexico is preparing to end its eviction moratorium, in effect since the start of the pandemic. At the same time, a pilot program designed to keep more people in their homes starts today.

The state Supreme Court reviewed eviction-diversion efforts in Illinois and Florida, and believes a similar program in New Mexico will create more successful outcomes after the moratorium ends.

Maria Griego, attorney and director of economic equity for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said the pilot program aims to resolve housing disputes before eviction occurs.

"There are several other jurisdictions in the U.S. that have eviction-diversion programs," Griego explained. "And they can be a really positive thing if the parties participate, especially now, with all of the rental assistance money available."

The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program provides up to 18 months of help with rent, including overdue rent. New Mexico's pilot program starts in Curry and Roosevelt counties, and will expand to the rest of the state in March.

In their 30-day legislative session, state lawmakers are also considering House Bill 65, which would give renters more time to make good on rent after their landlord provides written notice of nonpayment.

Griego noted the bill would increase the eviction window from three days to 11 days.

"New Mexico has some of the shortest eviction time frames in the country," Griego pointed out. "There's only eight other states with eviction timelines as short as, or shorter than, New Mexico's, and of those states, we have the third-highest rate of eviction."

Griego emphasized the two-year-long pandemic has exacerbated an existing housing crisis in many cities.

"Our state was in a housing crisis before the pandemic," Griego asserted. "That's why we need long-term protections - sometimes people just need more time, is what it boils down to."

In Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city, rent increased 8% in 2020 and an additional 23% in 2021, double the national average.


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