Morning Word

Santa Fe Housing Prices Remain High as Sales Fall

Human trafficking advocates tell lawmakers more funding needed

SF housing costs remain high as sales fall

Home sales in the city of Santa Fe decreased by 29% in the third quarter of this year compared with 2021, and by 22% in Santa Fe County, the Santa Fe Association of Realtors reported yesterday. During the same time period, city median home prices increased by 21% to $575,000 and by 8% to $775,000 in the county. While the year-to-year comparison shows an increase, both city and county median home prices dropped slightly compared to the most recent quarter. “The Santa Fe housing market, along with much of the country, experienced a rebalancing shift with slowing home and land sales facing growing market pressure on prices,” Andrea Dobyns, 2022 President of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, said in a statement.  “As the Federal Reserve increases mortgage rates to address inflation, the housing market is responding.” Year-to-year price increases were highest—more than 25%—in the Southeast sector: between the east side and west of Old Santa Fe Trail, including Quail Run, where the third quarter median house cost was $1.37 million. That area also had the highest decrease in home sales, which dropped by 37% year-to-year. The lowest-priced houses were in the city’s Midtown and Southside sectors, where the median house cost rose by 11.3% year-to-year, from $405,000 to $451,000, and sales dropped by close to 32%. SAR’s quarterly indicators says “some relief may be on the horizon” for active buyers, as “falling home sales have helped inventory to improve, while the rise in interest rates is putting downward pressure on home prices.”

Advocates: More funding needed for human trafficking work

Human trafficking advocates yesterday told state lawmakers on the Indian Affairs Committee (at about 2:50 on the video) they need more resources to tackle the issue in New Mexico. A presentation from the nonprofit The Life Link and the state Crime Victims Reparation Commission says New Mexico ranks highest in the country for unsolved cases, with 78 reported cases of missing and murdered women and girls in 2017, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute. Indigenous women and children are at highest risk for exposure to domestic violence and substance abuse in the country due to rural areas, as well as a lack of law enforcement and resources. While the state has a task force dedicated to the problem, it continues to struggle with incomplete data. The Life Link CEO Michael DeBernardi told legislators his agency’s data from the last three years show it provided services to 149 victims in 2019; 137 victims in 2020; and 187 victims in 2021. Its 505-GET-FREE human trafficking hotline, which it launched in 2013, received calls from 988 unique individuals looking for information or assistance over the last 12 months. “We have come to the Legislature many years, every single year, to try to get additional funding for these services in the state,” DeBernardi said, noting that most of the funding for human trafficking services—which includes case management; emergency housing; and crisis intervention, among many resources—currently comes from the federal government. “We need a lot of funding,” he said. “The more we put the word out about trafficking and raise awareness in the state, the more victims who come to our doorstep needing services.”

Election mishegoss

Less than a week before early voting commences for the Nov. 8 election, the Torrance County Commission is attempting to unseat Republican County Clerk Yvonne Otero after learning she pre-signed certification forms for the Nov. 8 voting machines prior to testing and did not attend the inspection for the equipment. The commission reportedly voted unanimously Monday night to submit complaints to state and local prosecutors seeking Otero’s removal, and will be repeating certification of its equipment. Torrance County was one of several in New Mexico—Otero County being another notable example—in which election conspiracy theories factored into delays or potential delays in the June 7 primary. SFR spoke this week with Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver about the ongoing efforts to delegitimize the voting process and the toll election conspiracy theories have had on her office and poll workers. You’ll find that interview, along with a Q & A with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, as part of this week’s election guide in advance of the Oct. 11 kickoff to early voting, along with endorsements for contested races; a primer on this year’s constitutional amendments; an explainer for proposed changes to the state’s judicial selection process; and much more news you can use as the general election approaches.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Oct. 4New cases: 244; 619,479 total cases; Deaths: six; Santa Fe County has had 351 total deaths; there have been 8,576 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 85. Patients on ventilators: six. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk, several New Mexico counties turned from “green” (low) to “yellow” (medium) and “red” (high) during the prior seven-day tracking period. Catron, Grant and Hidalgo counties are now red; Rio Arriba and Otero counties are now yellow. Santa Fe County remains green. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

‘Tis the time of year for spooky tales, providing the perfect occasion to dig into the Ghosts of Taos podcast, featuring paranormal and supernatural legends of Taos. Four new and recent episodes discuss how to deal with ghosts, should you have some; “pumpkin heads”; the origins of the Taos tunnels; and the local Hotbox of Horror group. Once upon a time, Ghosts of Taos was a walking tour, but it is now focusing on virtual events and its podcast, hosted by M. Elwell Romancito.

The other NM chile

National “Flash in the Pan” food columnist Ari Levaux recently offered “overdue praise for the shishito pepper,” a delicacy he first discovered at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, where growers purportedly describe them as “frying chiles.” The distinction, Levaux notes, is key because “roasted green chile is a sacred autumn tradition in New Mexico, where chile roasters are everywhere, in seemingly every parking lot and empty space.” Locals describe the “intoxicating” smell of roasting green chile as “New Mexican aromatherapy,” he writes. “It makes everybody within smelling distance happy and hungry.” Green chile, he adds, is the “backbone of New Mexico cuisine.” True enough! As for the shishitos, Levaux was initially unimpressed with the flavor of the frying when one of the market vendors gave him a taste. But upon returning home to Montana, a local farmer friend advised allowing some to ripen and turn red, which apparently changed Levaux’s mind (although he boils rather than fries them). He also doesn’t mind the milder flavor now that he’s older, and has been using the shishitos to fashion some approximation of what he describes as New Mexican-style cuisine (he also includes a non-New Mexican recipe involving shishitos).

Write away

October traditions around here include unpacking the sweaters from their summer storage; stocking up on Halloween candy way too early; and launching SFR’s annual fiction and nonfiction writing contest. What better time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) than now, when the days shorten and the days grow crisp (and wet, as of late). For this year’s fiction theme, “Secrets and Lies,” we’re looking for stories in which subterfuge, deception, artifice and the like play a role. Each fiction entry must contain the following three words: affidavit, corn and yogini. The nonfiction theme, “Field Notes from Home,” references author Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, in which Kolbert vividly describes the impacts of a warming planet on locations around the world. That crisis has only deepened in the years since, as New Mexico’s most recent summer of wildfires and floods demonstrates, and we ask this year’s entrants to write about the natural environment in a place they’ve called home. Entries are open until midnight on Oct. 31; the $10 fee per entry supports SFR’s journalism mission. First-place winners in each category will receive a $100 cash prize. The top three winners in each category are published in SFR’s print and online editions. Entries should not exceed 1,800 words; must be submitted digitally and be previously unpublished; paid contributors to SFR in the last year are ineligible. Submit here.

Umbrella weather

We awoke to rain, which the National Weather Service forecasts is 80% likely to continue today, with showers and a possible thunderstorm after noon. Today’s high temperature will be near 58 degrees with north wind 5 to 10 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Onion’s amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court yesterday defending parody made The Word very happy (much happier than reading about the rest of the court’s new term).

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