Apartment dwellers get kicked out of Santa Fe | Local News

Seven years ago, $850 was the going monthly rate for an apartment in Santa Fe.

Today, $850 falls squarely in the realm of low-income housing — a commodity as scarce in Santa Fe as a $250,000 house.

And the starting rent for newer apartments in Santa Fe typically exceeds $1,700 per month.

Still, $850 remains a high price for many Santa Fe workers, not to mention the “average” rental rate hovering between $1,400 and $1,600 per month, according to many online apartment rental websites.

In a city in the throes of an affordable housing crisis, the inability to find budget housing — especially at the apartment level, where rental costs are skyrocketing — is an unwanted new twist. And for those who have long known they were out of the market for a single-family home, the ripple effect of these new realities is disheartening.

The inability to find profitable housing, especially in the apartment market, doesn’t just apply to people at the lower end of Santa Fe’s economic ladder: service-sector workers or the unemployed. Teachers, state employees, small business owners – many say they are struggling to afford a home, even as the city builds bigger complexes.

A 2020 Santa Fe Housing Report by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors determined that 37.8% of people who work in Santa Fe do not live in Santa Fe. They largely commute from Albuquerque /Rio Rancho or Española as housing is cheaper in both areas.

Eliot Chavez started a business called E-repairs in January 2021 at the Design Center on Cerrillos Road, where he repairs cellphones, computers, tablets, small watches, drones and game consoles. He previously ran a mobile electronics repair service.

Chavez, 32, and his fiancée were living with his mother when they decided to move to Broadstone Rodeo’s new apartments on Rodeo Road, which are now called Olympus Rodeo.

“We took over someone else’s lease at Olympus Rodeo because they couldn’t afford it,” Chavez said. “We only lasted five months because we couldn’t afford it. We are now at Española for $990 for two beds, two baths.

Chavez has lived in Santa Fe all his life and he describes it as a “sad story” that he has to commute from Española. But he says the inconveniences are outweighed by the assurance that he can afford accommodation.

“Right now we’re sleeping well,” Chavez said. “I can’t tell you how stressed I was not knowing where we were going to be next month. Right now we are relaxed; we are comfortable.

Based on the long quoted figure that tenants are “cost burdened” if rent is more than 30% of gross income, a tenant would need to earn $40,000 a year for a monthly rent check of $1 $000 is “affordable”; $60,000 to reasonably pay $1,500; and $80,000 a year to pay $2,000 — a number commonly seen in new two-bedroom apartments that opened in Santa Fe last year.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has used the 30% metric to define “affordable” housing since 1981 after a figure of 25% affordable housing was first established in 1969. The 30% figure has been cited as gospel in affordable housing discussions ever since. , but even HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research acknowledges the rule is now “almost useless” in an article titled “Rent Burdens: Rethinking Affordability Measures.”

Costs of basic necessities such as food, clothing, transport, medical care and communications have soared as have rents, with wages for many nowhere near keeping pace.

The HUD article quotes Frank Nothaft, former chief economist at Freddie Mac and now CoreLogic, as saying, “If your income is $500,000 a year, you can pay 40% and you still have money left over.” But if your income is $20,000 a year, it will be difficult to make ends meet if you pay 30% of your income in rent.

No new figure is floating around to replace the 30% figure that defines “overcharged costs” for tenants.

But Shelly Felt, executive director of Youth Shelters and Family Services, Santa Fe’s housing assistance provider for homeless youth, gave it a shot.

“If I was giving financial advice to someone just starting out, I’d say look for something like 22% of your income,” Felt said. “To accomplish this, you may need to live with someone.”

A young guy who earns between 15 and 18 dollars an hour could afford an apartment for 572 to 686 dollars a month if he paid 22% of his gross income.

But the $600-a-month apartment largely met the fate of the dodo. The number of units rented for less than $600 per month fell by 3.9 million across the country from 2011 to 2019 or fell from 32% of all rental units to 22%, according to “America’s Rental Housing 2022”. , prepared by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Spending factors are so different from person to person that Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition executive director Michael Barrio doesn’t have an alternate percentage for the 30 percent.

“I think the 30% thing is antiquated,” Barrio said. “It’s a very cold calculation that doesn’t take any other factors into account. It becomes very difficult to work out what the number is because there are so many other factors.

Rents have risen an average of 12% over the past year in Santa Fe in the 25 largest apartment complexes tracked by the Albuquerque office of commercial real estate services firm CBRE. Although Albuquerque is considered cheaper than Santa Fe, rents have risen 18% in Duke City, said Billy Eagle, senior vice president of CBRE in Albuquerque.

Nationally, rents have risen by around 18-20%, which is the average of the numbers from many online apartment listing services.

Housing experts say one reason Santa Fe’s problems have escalated is its appeal in the age of COVID-19. People are fleeing big cities to work remotely, retire or just live here. It’s expensive in Santa Fe, yes, but still relatively inexpensive for transplants from California, Texas, Colorado and elsewhere.

“Affordability in Santa Fe is much better,” Eagle said. “People come here from Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix. Retirees move here. This puts pressure on rentals. What I see, as housing becomes less and less affordable, people want to move into a nice apartment.

Other Key Factors: People are moving from houses to apartments and some in apartments are waiting with little success to find a house to buy. Additionally, Los Alamos National Laboratory has added about 1,200 employees per year since 2019 and expects to continue doing so through 2024, with 2,896 employees living in Santa Fe, according to statistics provided by the lab.

Add it all up and there is unprecedented pressure on mid- and upper-tier apartments.

“Rents will continue to climb as job growth continues and supply remains below demand at this time,” Eagle said. “Companies are realizing they can get the same productivity from home workers. Employees can move to places where they can afford a better quality of life.

There’s also this: Apartment living has gotten sexy, said Jen Erixon, Santa Fe-based senior vice president at Alliant Capital, an investor in Los Angeles affordable housing in all 50 states, including properties in Albuquerque. and Clovis.

“I believe one of the biggest changes in the rental market is that rental housing is seen as a more acceptable housing choice,” Erixon said. “In previous generations, you had to be an owner or you were considered second class. Now it is considered an economically responsible choice.

Tara Dayton, 48, is a second grade teacher at Amy Biehl Community School who moved to Santa Fe in March. It took him a while to find a “very expensive and tiny” rental for $1,250. In addition to her school day, she taught summer school, tutored after school every day, and sometimes even cleaned houses in Albuquerque to make ends meet.

“I now know it’s cheap,” she said of that rent.

She finally managed to buy a townhouse through Homewise.

“It’s not my forever home,” Dayton said. “I still work after school four days a week tutoring. When I was level 1 pays [for teachers], the check did not cover the short-term rental. As a level 2 and with my second job, I could pay rent and car payment with one check. And I don’t clean houses anymore.

Just as short-term rentals like Airbnb are taking homes off the market, new demographics now choosing apartment living are crowding out low-income workers who depend on low-rent apartments.

“These people in Santa Clara [Calif.] or other markets say, “I’m just going to test Santa Fe”. I’m going to rent an apartment for a few months or a year,” Erixon said. “It’s not just Santa Fe. It’s also growing in Albuquerque. We used to say that to get affordable housing, you had to “seek quality”. It’s getting harder and harder in Santa Fe to drive even toward quality.

Nina Zelevansky is at the difficult end of this equation.

Zelevansky, 72, realizes this in Española, where she said her landlord wants her out of her apartment by the end of February. She is disabled and was a psychotherapist until her retirement 10 years ago.

“Two years ago this is where you came if you couldn’t afford Santa Fe,” Zelevansky said. “Now even the locals are struggling to find a place. I’m looking in Chimayó, Taos, Los Alamos. I guess the furthest I looked is Las Vegas. Albuquerque which I know nothing about. I don’t know what I’m looking at. I’m terrified, I’ll be honest with you.

Zelevansky said she had a Section 8 federal low-income assistance housing voucher that allowed her a maximum of $1,100 for one bedroom and $1,275 for two bedrooms in Santa Fe, she paying $330.

“Right now all I’m doing is looking for places to live,” said Zelevansky, who has lived in Santa Fe for 52 years. “I was kicked out of Santa Fe three years ago because I couldn’t afford it. My reality is I’m getting Section 8. Santa Fe City is probably completely out of the question. Someone was asking $1,200 for a room.

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