Written by Faith in Action Bay Area Leaders in San Mateo County
As state eviction protections are set to expire on June 30, but thousands of San Mateo County families still have rent debt, we are distributing this newsletter to update policymakers and members of the community on the eviction cliff. Read Issue 1 Here.
County Supervisors Take Initial Step
To Protect Residents from the Eviction Cliff
Following several weeks of public pressure from Faith in Action Bay Area leaders, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors committed to putting local eviction moratoria on the June 29 Board of Supervisors agenda.
"Should the Governor not sign it, we better be prepared and have some action plan in place to assist those who are potentially going to be evicted," Supervisor Carole Groom stated.
Supervisor David Canepa referenced the scripture shared by Rabbi Moshe Heyn of the Coastside Jewish Community, and added: "If the state does not extend the moratorium, I think we should be prepared to pass our own ordinance at the June 29 meeting. I am proposing a 120 day moratorium."
Supervisor Don Horsley noted his intention to sponsor the item with Supervisor Warren Slocum.
The Supervisors requested that staff prepare one moratoria extension for the entire county and one for unincorporated areas, while county lawyers consider the legal terrain of these policies.
NEWS FROM THE EDGE Those Falling Through the Cracks...
Maria and Francisca's Story
Maria and Francisca's* families rent rooms in a single-family home on the Coastside of San Mateo County. Maria pays $1,000 per month for one room that houses herself, her husband, and two children. Francisca pays $1,400 per month for another room that houses herself, her husband, and three children.
15 adults and children live in the home in which they rent rooms. Two more people live in an RV parked in the back. There is just one bathroom and one kitchen for all 17 people.
Maria, Francisca, and the other renters are subletters and undocumented. They have no formal lease, just a letter stating how much rent has been paid. The landlord refused to write the letters that could have enabled the subletters to receive financial assistance.
Before the pandemic, both Maria and Francisca worked full time as housekeepers. Their husbands worked as well. When the pandemic hit, they all lost their jobs. All 17 people living in the house, except Francisca, also got sick with COVID-19. Their rent was temporarily paid through a Coastside emergency fund. Despite loss of jobs and illness, both women continued volunteering within the community.
Maria, Francisca, their husbands and one adult child are working again but have not been able to find full-time employment. The income of both families is within the extremely low-income category for San Mateo County.
Now the landlords has given Maria and Francisca verbal notice of eviction, effective before the end of June. They have no written contract, and they're not aware of legal recourse. Meanwhile, they're not able to find other housing despite much searching.
Apartments on the Coastside average at least $1,000 per month and require a $7,000 deposit, which neither family has. Some apartment's don't allow children; most don't allow more than four people. Applications require documents--many of which Maria and Francisca don't have--including tax documents, car license, registration, insurance, bank statements, and social security numbers.
Undocumented residents of San Mateo County were promised $1,000, but neither Maria nor Francisca received money from the San Mateo Immigrant Relief Fund. They were told they were ineligible, perhaps because they did not have online bank accounts into which they could be deposited.
And, because they had help paying the rent so far, neither family is eligible for relief under SB-91.
The social services and safety nets currently available in San Mateo County are not enough to help Maria and Francisca. Application requirements and policies precluded these families from benefitting from the safety nets created during the pandemic. Without written agreements, they are at the whim of landlords who take advantage of their undocumented status and their families' desperation. The current moratorium as-is does not protect families like theirs. An extension, therefore, must expand so that such vulnerable families do not fall through the cracks.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.
News from Sacramento
A budget trailer bill extending the eviction moratorium still has not been introduced. Conversations among the Governor and top legislators have just begun on this topic. This week is a critical time for counties and cities to advocate at the state level for an extension of SB 91.
1. As seen in Maria and Francisca's story, older-adult immigrant and recent immigrant communities, as well as low-income families and renter-occupied households, are more likely to experience over-crowding. This is linked with greater vulnerability to homelessness among the poor and increased risk of infection from communicable disease.
2. According to the California Budget and Policy Center, over 1 in 5 households in California pay more than half of their income in rent--placing them at a great economic risk. The downturn of the pandemic has put many families in financial difficulties that are untenable.
3. A May 2021 study showed that as pandemic eviction moratoriums end, households with children will face greater risk of homelessness. The study concludes that "to prevent families from experiencing housing instability and homelessness, we need to stop evictions and provide families support."
Questions from the Community
1. How will you prevent an eviction crisis, while the Bay Area builds needed low-income housing?
2. How to you plan to protect families from losing their housing?
3. Immigrants often fill "essential worker" jobs and are an important part of our economic resilience. How do you plan to help immigrants at risk for overcrowding and homelessness?
City Spotlight: Redwood City
A survey by Redwood City Together and the Gardner Center at Stanford exposes the impact of the pandemic on housing insecurity. The survey found that one-third of Redwood City renters are experiencing housing insecurity, with 7% living under the threat of eviction. The survey also found that during the pandemic:
Unemployment and furlough rates have more than doubled
Over one-third of households could not pay their entire rent. Of those, three-quarters do not know about the rental assistance available to them
Eviction threats have more than doubled, despite the eviction moratorium.
In response, Redwood City officials have taken action to help their residents:
The city mailed a flyer to every household with information about the state emergency rental assistance program, in English and Spanish.
We applaud Redwood City for taking these steps and being a leader in the county. As long as state rental assistance is still not reaching all those it's intended to help, and state eviction protections are not secured, residents still need further action from the Redwood City and San Mateo County officials.