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Virus affecting Santa Fe’s already tight rental market

SANTA FE, N.M. — Finding rentals in Santa Fe has been notoriously difficult.

And with the recent COVID-19 outbreak, it has become even tougher.

The New Mexico Supreme Court issued an order Tuesday halting evictions throughout the state if tenants are unable to pay their rent.

But for those facing eviction for reasons other than failure to pay, they now face the difficult task of finding housing in a city with a sizable housing shortage during a pandemic.

Jennifer Griego said her landlord did not give her an official reason when he said she and her boyfriend and 3-year-old daughter were being evicted from their east side Santa Fe home in early February.

“He just said, ‘I’m giving you this 30-day notice to leave the premises,’ ” Griego said.

Griego’s landlord, Jerome Gomez, filed a restitution order in Santa Fe Magistrate Court on March 16 saying Griego’s family was being evicted because the property owner wanted to sell the home.

It is unclear whether Gomez’s restitution claim falls under the Supreme Court’s order.

Nearly two months after the fact, Griego still has not moved due to the increasingly tight housing market in Santa Fe.

“We’re looking; it’s just difficult because a lot of people have all these restrictions,” she said.

In her hunt for a new home, she said, potential landlords have denied her for many reasons, including because the unit is too small for three people and because she has a child.

And at least 12 landlords, she said, have told her they have stopped renting their units altogether due to the COVID-19 outbreak and are taking their listings off websites such as Craigslist.

The Journal called three apartment complexes in Santa Fe, all of which are no longer providing tours of vacant apartments. Those interested in renting are told to look at pictures on their websites.

A representative with one of them, Vista Alegre Apartments, said the complex has canceled tours of apartments because of the coronavirus.

Although she is not being evicted for financial reasons, Griego said, her income as a home health aide has been cut because of the spread of the virus.

She reduced her number of at-home visits, fearful that she could contract the virus from a client and give it to her daughter, who suffers from severe asthma.

“I always ask before I go take care of a client if they have symptoms, a fever or anything like that,” she said. “I’m physically touching these people, helping them wash their face or brush their teeth.”

Recently, Griego has had to start asking friends and relatives for money to buy essentials, such as food and gas. She also cannot afford to pay the $600 to get her car out of a mechanic’s shop, where it has been repaired.

“It’s not that much money — but when you don’t have a steady income, it is,” she said.

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