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Santa Fe braces for wave of evictions

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Officials in Santa Fe have long worried that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a tidal wave of evictions, especially once multiple eviction moratoriums are no longer in place.

Now, a new study shows just how many tenants are at risk and offers suggestions for what the city can do in response.

Santa Fe could see as many as 5,700 evictions once government protections end, according to a study released Monday by the local nonprofit Chainbreaker Collective. It also highlighted that landlords are still evicting tenants, despite eviction moratoriums in place.

“While local and state eviction moratoria are currently still intact, they lack strong or comprehensive protections to guarantee that all renters will remain housed and healthy,” the study states.

Currently, the state, the city of Santa Fe and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all have in place an eviction moratorium in place that typically protects tenants who can no longer afford rent due to the pandemic.

The total number of eviction claims in Santa Fe declined by about 50% during the pandemic compared to the previous year, the study states. However, it also found that landlords are increasingly using different reasons when evicting tenants than in previous years.

Before the pandemic, around 84% of Santa Fe evictions were due to nonpayment of rent, a figure that declined to 63% in 2020, the study found. A greater number of landlords began filing claims to evict tenants due to restitution claims or for other debt owed, such as utilities.

“None of the moratoria are fully holding up their promise of keeping families housed – evictions have continued throughout the pandemic,” the study states.

Organizers with the Chainbreaker Collective also noted that the number of evictions are probably higher than the data indicates, since many tenants have unwritten agreements with landlords.

Cipriana Jurado Herrera, a Chainbreaker Collective member, said the pandemic has forced many tenants to ask for money from family members or from banks. She added that many have fallen behind on utility bills, such as gas and water.

A looming eviction crisis – along with a longstanding housing shortage – has been a primary topic in the city’s most recent budget proposal.

It includes a guaranteed $3 million in funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for the current fiscal year, along with an additional $3 million for the year after. Part of the funding will go towards setting up a tenant hotline to assist those facing eviction.

“Our overall effort was to get ahead of the problem to the extent that we tried to anticipate problems before they could turn into crises,” Mayor Alan Webber said at a Monday news conference.

The study recommends that city officials strengthen the current moratorium to better protect renters. It also calls for landlords to be licensed by the city to provide better data in the future.

Monday’s report was Chainbreaker’s second onevictions; the first was released in December and a third is slated for release in June.