Evictions in the COVID-19 Era: A threat to family and community health in Santa Fe

December 2020

We developed a series of research briefs in partnership with Chainbreaker Collective to examine the health impacts of the looming eviction crisis amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This brief is the first in the series, and describes the housing insecurity crisis before COVID-19, and the heightened risks Santa Fe renters now face.

Overview

Thousands of Santa Feans are experiencing a crisis within a crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic intensifies: They are at significant risk of being evicted as federal, state, and local eviction moratoria expire and leave families vulnerable to homelessness and the myriad health consequences that follow.

Santa Fe’s residents struggled to access stable and affordable housing long before the pandemic.

Almost half of all renters are rent burdened, spending at least 30% of their income on rent. And almost all low-income renter households (96%) experience rent burden. Numerous factors including gentrification, the rising cost of housing, predatory rent increases, stagnant incomes and wages, and a lack of regulations to protect renters create an affordable housing dilemma. Santa Fe’s thriving tourism industry was also hit hard by the recession and experienced the greatest employment loss. Workers in this sector are disproportionately paid low wages and now, left without work, can’t pay to house themselves and their loved ones.

Low-income households have endured an especially challenging year. They’re more likely to:
  • Experience loss of employment income since March 2020 (58%)

  • Expect loss of employment income in December 2020 (55%)

  • Be behind on rent (31%), and report no confidence in paying next month’s rent (22%)

  • Experience difficulty paying for usual household expenses (87%)

  • Report feeling nervous, anxious, on edge (81%), or down, depressed or hopeless (77%)

Santa Fe has an opportunity to protect the health and wellbeing of renter families

The City of Santa Fe led the way in imposing an eviction moratorium before the New Mexico Supreme Court and the federal government. Today—as over 5,700 Santa Fe renter households could face eviction when the city, state, and federal moratoria expire—there is a critical opportunity for local leadership to extend and expand the local eviction moratorium, and to broaden and strengthen the protections for tenants in a way best suited to the unique needs of the city.

This research brief is the first in a 3-part series examining the looming eviction crisis in Santa Fe.

We describe Santa Fe’s housing insecurity problem before COVID-19, the risks residents face in light of the current crisis, and the experience of residents in the context of COVID-19. We also highlight gaps in eviction moratoria at the local, state, and federal levels. The second brief will describe the scale of pandemic-era evictions despite the presence of moratoria policies. The third and final brief will offer strategies to improve housing security for Santa Feans, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, including expanding the local moratorium to alleviate burdens on renters, and enacting policies to increase transparency and accountability in landlord-tenant agreements.

 

Read the brief