Most people didn't even know about the Santa Fe rule that to rent a casita, the owner must also live on the property—at least until Jamie Durfee made headlines in recent months because of eviction proceedings due to that very ordinance. It's an archaic part of the building code, and has since turned into a citywide dispute, with terms like "affordable housing supply" and "economic impact" being tossed around. SFR caught up with Durfee to see how her life has been going since a fateful letter in March thrust her into the middle of a political free-for-all.
City Council was supposed to decide on the rule change at its last meeting, but pushed it back until the end of this month. Is it nerve-wracking to have to wait to see if you'll be able to stay in your casita?
Let's hope it doesn't get pushed out again, right? My fear is that for people who were pro-ordinance change, it just gives them more time to become disinterested. It's a hot topic; you want people engaged, you want people part of the conversation, and I think the City Council's reason for pushing it out was to allow for additional input. But I just worry that there's enough room there for disinterest or disengagement. It's a bit nerve-wracking for sure. It's weird being in limbo in any situation in life, not knowing if you get to stay or have to go. I keep thinking about leaving this casita and this living situation, and I've really enjoyed it, despite everything. I was really looking forward to staying. So yeah, it's tough. It gets tiring when the city keeps pushing stuff out.
You've become a bit of a political activist, organizing on social media, writing op-eds, etc. Is advocacy something you could see yourself doing more of after this is over?
It's something I can take part in while still making a livelihood. Don't get me wrong, I toyed with the idea, and had people pull me aside, and still have people who pull me aside to say 'Do you see yourself in government at some point?' I definitely considered running, but it's just not a viable option. And I hate that. … I've kind of encountered this situation that even this argument that I'm putting out there for this casita in a South Capitol neighborhood feels kind of pretentious. There are people in much worse situations. For most young people, a City Council position isn't realistic if you're burdened with student loans. At the very least I'll be attending City Council meetings and I'll support anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
If the council decides to keep the rule, what are the odds you'll have to leave town and pick up somewhere else?
If that's actually what happens, that's going to be devastating. I really don't think that this one concerning the owner-tenant occupancy that directly affects me, I don't think it's as huge of an issue as people in the opposition are making it out to be. I think it's a real factless argument. But with that being said, that's going to be a bummer. I think I'd be more disappointed staying in Santa Fe, you know? Knowing that I'd have to deal with people who can't make a decision that I think is really for the betterment of the city. It'd be a bummer staying here just because of that. But I've played with the idea of maybe moving back in with my family, so I can maybe save up for a down payment on a home. I've been doing some pretty consistent research on housing and apartments in Santa Fe, I'm going to be paying at least $400-$500 more for something comparable, and I'm literally in 550 square feet.