ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A group of protesters gathered in front of City Hall Monday night during the City Council meeting. The People’s Housing Project organized the event. They are asking city councilors to address rising rent prices by calling on state lawmakers to get rid of the rent control ban.

“The cost of living is only going up and the rents are going up more and more,” said Christy Chui.

Chui says she was forced out of her apartment in northeast Albuquerque after her rent went from $650/month to $1,300/month in just one year. She did not reveal which compound she lives in.

“There’s nowhere in Albuquerque that I can find for the same price I came with, everything is way more expensive,” she said.

New data from Apartment List confirms that rental prices are rising in Albuquerque. The median price for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,079/month. This is an increase of 11.5% compared to the same time last year and an increase of 40% compared to March 2020.

Danger Varoz says his rent also went up unexpectedly.

“In December, I came back from vacation to find that to renew my lease I would have to pay an extra $500 every month,” he said. “I put rent on my credit card while I was trying to feed my family and trying to get into school. It was really hard to deal with that. But in the end, I found another market.

Varoz says he saw the price of some apartments go up several times as he looked for a new place to live.

“They are increasing substantially every month,” he said. “If you are looking for an apartment and you keep checking places. You see them going up.

People who set apartment prices say Albuquerque faces a supply and demand problem.

“A community is about 17,000 units short of providing full housing,” said Chuck Sheldon, CEO of T&M Management Group.

Sheldon’s business manages 350 apartments. He says homeowners face their own rising costs. He says the swamp cooling unit they typically use in Albuquerque is $350 more than it used to be. He also says they are raising rent prices to meet rising labor costs for their employees.

Sheldon also says the federal government plays a role in rent hikes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development sets “fair market rates” for Section 8 housing.

“So the minimum for one bedroom is $821. A minimum for a two-bedroom is $996,” he said.

Sheldon says other landlords probably won’t charge below those rates.

“You couple that with rising costs, rising labor, and you have this bloated situation that continues, exasperated by the fact that we have a housing shortage,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon believes the solution is a mix of new construction and renovations to older complexes built in the 1950s and 60s.

“It will create space,” he said. “We need to rehabilitate the lower units so that people have quality housing, and they can live there and it’s quality and safe housing.”

Protesters at Monday’s rally are demanding some form of rent control.

Councilman Pat Davis says it depends on the state legislature:

“The city is prohibited by state law from interfering with rental agreements. Only the State can modify the terms of the contract, including the rent. Councilman Fiebelkorn and I have expressed interest in working on this issue and introducing legislation asking the Legislature to consider it, but the group has yet to provide text for proposed state legislation that would like us to send to the Legislature..”