The legislative session ends on Friday, so it is the last day MPs can extend that deadline. But the political appetite isn’t just for action, according to David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who ramped up previous efforts to stop tenant displacement amid the pandemic.
“I believed that our eviction protection for tenants should be extended beyond September 30. The delta version and the end of many unemployment benefits makes this even more urgent,” Chiu told CalMatters. “Unfortunately, some of my coworkers feel differently, and there is not enough consensus for this.”
“The Legislature has kind of set a trap for itself because it won’t be in session,” said Brian Augusta, legislative advocate for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. “So, that means we get what we see.”
Augusta said governors can still convene a special legislative session before the end of the month to step up security, or issue an executive order as they did to halt court proceedings related to evictions at the start of the pandemic. . But he said it was not likely.
The governor’s office also declined to comment.
The California Rental Housing Association, which represents more than 20,000 landlords and has sued the state in the final round of protections, was pleased with the decision, but not surprised.
“Our lobbyists didn’t come up to us and say, ‘Hey, you know, we’re going to have to settle somewhere or anything like that,'” said Calera’s board member, Sid Lakreddy. “So, I think legislators have started getting this as well. It cannot go on at infinity.”
The eviction protection in place states that tenants will have a defense in court should their landlord evict them for non-payment of rent by September 30. They will still have to submit a declaration stating that they are unable to pay the full rent, and pay at least 25% of their monthly rent from September 1, 2020, in installments or in bulk, by September 30.
The security is linked to $5.2 billion in federal aid for rent relief. People earning less than 80% of their area’s median income who were financially impacted by COVID-19 can still apply for the full amount of the missed rent and stop the eviction. They can now also apply for forward rent of three months.
But the distribution of those dollars remains a problem. While the state has received applications for about $1.9 billion in rental assistance, it has disbursed only $491 million. Still, it’s a nearly 500% increase since the current moratorium was passed in late June, according to Russ Heimrich, a spokesman for the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.
According to a recent analysis of California rental loans by PolicyLink, an Oakland-based research group, nearly 753,000 households are behind on rent, and have a cumulative owed of $2.8 billion.
Francisco Duas, executive director of Housing Now, said, “I think everyone’s hope was that by now more families would have received funding, and those who didn’t apply or were rejected were in the minority, which was contrary to the overwhelming majority.” !, a tenant advocacy group.
There are some pauses in existing legislation that, in theory, should prevent a tsunami of evictions, tenant advocates and researchers have predicted. Heimrich said tenants would be shielded for 15 more days from the eviction process by the courts to apply for their missed rent – a provision that extends until March 2022.
To take advantage of those protections, tenants must show evidence that they applied for the rental assistance program in court, Heimrich said. He said the state agency is working closely with the judicial council to inform judges about the process.
While stopgap may look promising on paper, tenant advocates are concerned about its application.
“The problem with trusting the courts is that people need to go to court,” Dunas said. “And a lot of people don’t respond to court notices. They just walk away.”