Federal housing authorities say Santa Fe landlord Paula Anderson violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against a woman who wanted to move her cat and her daughter into the house she rented from her.
The charge highlights a growing problem of housing discrimination in Santa Fe, particularly among people with mental or physical disabilities.
"There are a lot of barriers [in housing]," says Tomás Rivera, executive director of the local organization Chainbreaker Collective. "It has always been an issue."
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced May 4 that it found merit in the 2013 complaint filed by the now-former tenant, whose identity is protected by the agency and whose lawyers say has bipolar disorder. After moving into the two-bedroom rental property, the woman says she requested that her daughter and a therapy cat named Grace be allowed to live with her. Anderson, who could not be reached for comment, refused the request and threatened to evict the tenant.
It is illegal to discriminate against or deny "reasonable accommodations" for persons with disabilities. Stories like this one, Rivera says, are why the nonprofit wants the city to adopt a "Renters' Bill of Rights" to lay out policy on housing issues in Santa Fe such as cost, fairness in leasing and protection from displacement. In the past, Chainbreaker has focused on "transit justice," the right to affordable transportation, yet Rivera says the root of that issue is the lack of affordable housing in the Santa Fe area.
Councilors Joseph Maestas and Carmichael Dominguez introduced the "Renters' Bill of Rights" by name at the May 13 City Council meeting. A draft of the resolution isn't ready for public review yet, says the city attorney's office.