Written by Faith in Action Bay Area Leaders in San Mateo County
Last week, the Governor extended the eviction moratorium until September 30, 2021! Thank you to all who called and wrote to state legislators in support of families being able to stay in their homes. Now, more work remains to be done to ensure that the rent relief funds get are distributed to the families who need them. Please read ahead for AB 832 facts, stories from the edge, our call for local action, and more.
News from Sacramento
Last Week: Governor Signs AB 832, Extending Eviction Moratorium Until September 30 and Expanding Rent Relief Program
Key components of the bill include:
Eviction Protections Extended
Tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment of rent until September 30, 2021.
Tenants can never be evicted for non-payment of rent during the pandemic if they pay 25% of the rent due each month between September 1 2020 and September 30, 2021.
Provisions for the bill to phase-out on October 1 are also defined:
Starting October 1, 2021, landlords may give a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit to initiate eviction proceedings. Until September 30, it is a 15-day notice requirement.
From October 1 2021-March 2022, in order for an eviction to proceed in court, the landlord must demonstrate that they applied to the state rent relief program and the application was denied.
Starting October 1, 2021, a tenant facing eviction (Unlawful Detainer) who also has an approved rent relief application can petition the court to stay until the state funding is received.
Collection lawsuits for COVID-19 rental debt in small claims court may begin on November 1, 2021.
Cities and counties may not pass any additional protections from evictions (due to unpaid rent in the pandemic) until April 2022, even once state protections expire on September 30, 2021.
Rent Relief Program Expanded
Both tenants and landlords are eligible to receive 100% of rental debt accrued since April 1, 2020.
Any landlord or tenant who already received funds from the state can receive additional money to complete the 100%.
Tenants are eligible for 100% of rental debt without landlord participation
Eligible tenants can get 100% of prospective (future) rent up to a maximum of 18 months of total rental assistance.
The application now allows tenants to request support through September 2021.
Relief will be available for back rent owed by a tenant who has already moved out.
Renters who owe utility bills can still apply for utility assistance through the Housing is Key application portal.
What Does This Mean for Tenants
With Rental Debt in San Mateo County?
Thousands of tenants will now be able to obtain 100% relief for their rental debt! This is a critical step toward debt relief for all.
We must do everything possible to get rent relief into people’s hands by September 30, 2021 so that they are permanently protected from eviction and can feel a greater sense of security. The phase-out provisions suggest that a future extension is unlikely.
We remain concerned about the evictions that happen outside of the court due to pressure, harassment and threats.
News from the Edge
Expansion of Rent Relief Program Provides Hope
I’ve lived in Redwood City for more than 20 years. I’m an older person and I sold tamales to families outside of schools to pay my rent and to survive. I rent a room from a family for $700 a month as a subtenant, and I do not have a formal lease. Friends lent me money to pay for rent all of last year but unfortunately due to the pandemic, it has not been possible for me to work in the same way. I owe a lot of money to my friends and I haven’t been able to pay rent since February, March, April, May, June, and I didn’t have the money to pay for July. I am very worried because I’m an older person and it isn’t easy for me to find work and the sale of tamales is very low. I barely make enough for some essential expenses.
With the state program that started in January, I was not eligible for assistance as a subtenant. With the recent changes, it is possible that I could be eligible, since now tenants can get 100% debt relief. I just submitted my application yesterday, but I don’t know what the state program is going to tell me and if they will help me. I will call the program hotline next week to ask for an update on my application status.
We hope that the expansion of the debt relief program includes subtenants who rent rooms from “formal” tenants, as this is very common in our county. We have yet to confirm through experience or with policy makers that subtenants will be eligible. We urge San Mateo County officials to make county funds available with clear guidelines to support people who are not eligible for the state program.
Actions Needed at Local Level
We applaud the Governor and state legislature for extending the state eviction moratorium with AB 832. This extension provides a desperately needed stopgap to keep residents in their homes for now.
However, since AB 832 also end-dates its eviction protections and precludes any further local moratorium, it can serve only as a temporary solution. County and city officials must now focus urgently on getting relief funds into the hands of those hardest hit by the pandemic, to stabilize their housing before the moratorium ends.
San Mateo County residents need our officials to take the following actions:
Fully train core agency staff on who is eligible to apply under the new legislation, what debt can be covered, and what types of supporting documentation are acceptable. Staff must give applicants accurate advice and avoid mistakenly turning anyone away.
Provide more application assistance over the phone and in person at the core agencies, with a strong preference for in person help, to make sure that residents without the technology or internet access to use the website are not excluded from the relief intended for them.
Speed up processing after applications are submitted, so that relief funds are disbursed in time to reach families before eviction protections end.
Establish an assistance program for shadow debt--the debt people have with friends, families, and credit card companies--so that tenants who went to extreme efforts to make their rent payments are not penalized because their debt is no longer directly to their landlord.
Strengthen anti-harassment policies to prevent bad-actor landlords from pressuring tenants into leaving their homes without a formal eviction.
Set up outreach program to announce the new expansion of the relief program and encourage tenants and landlords to apply. The email newsletters and website announcements that have already gone out are an excellent start. County and city officials must also follow through with other planned methods, such as postal mailings and print, outdoor, radio, and television advertisements, to contact residents whom online methods don’t reach. Core agencies should also follow up with previously rejected applicants to let them know they may now be eligible. San Mateo County leaders must make sure all impacted residents know relief is available, so that they can access and benefit from it.
"Just the Facts"
With the State passing AB 832 which stipulates an end date for eviction protection, we need to understand where we are in our economic recovery to best plan the next steps. Here are some recent data:
Many are still struggling with underemployment and the debt they accrued during the COVID-induced economic downturn.
814,200 million California renter households were behind on rent in January 2021
Californian renters face an estimated $2.4 billion in rent debt, approximately $2,900 per household
The vast majority of renters who are behind have experienced job and income losses during the pandemic: 80 percent have lost employment income.
77 percent of renters who are behind are people of color, and 77 percent earn less than $50,000. Only 6 percent of households with incomes $75,000 or more are behind on rent.
Projections for an economic rebound suggest recovery may take years.
The region thus far has recovered less than one-third of the jobs that were lost at the beginning of the pandemic, leaving a “huge jobs deficit.”
The County funds meant for COVID economic recovery continue to be slow in reaching the hands of those in need.
As of July 2, a total of over $72 million had been requested, but only $14.3 million had been obligated and $4.3 million actually paid out. [Data from Human Services Agency of San Mateo County]
Those most at risk for the greatest economic distress and slowest recovery are the poor and people of color.
Before the pandemic, many low-income renters in San Mateo County already spent over 30 to 50 percent of their income on rent -- and the pandemic’s economic impacts have only furthered these inequities, increasing the percent of those severely cost burdened by six percent between 2019 and 2020. This burden falls on the forty percent of SMC residents who are renters, including the majority of Latinx and Black residents.
Questions to Consider
These four questions were posed by Mike Callagy, County Manager, to our Board of Supervisors:
How can we support our residents who have been most significantly impacted by the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic?
How do we prioritize equity in our recovery from COVID-19 and beyond?
How do we best work with the community not only to build back from the pandemic, but build back stronger in both the short and long-term?
How do we build upon what we have learned about inequity in order to build a brighter future for all?
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