June 24, 2021: With the clock ticking as the state legislation barring eviction for nonpayment of rent, (Senate Bill 91) nears its June 30 expiration, the California Apartment Association (CAA) intervened to water down legislation from Governor Gavin Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins to extend eviction protections. Tenants & advocates are calling on the legislature to further extend the moratorium if the state hasn't been able to get money into the hands of all eligible tenants or if employment has not recovered for the disproportionately BIPOC and low-income tenants who are unable to pay rent in full.
The CAA argued this week that eviction protections for inability to pay rent were no longer necessary (“Join campaign to stop lengthy extension of eviction ban”), despite the fact that the Governor and leadership are expected to unveil a plan that will compensate landlords for 100% of rent debt accrued during COVID. Recent CAA talking points included economically dubious assertions such as claiming an increase in car purchases signalled that low-income tenants had recovered financially. CAA’s claims are disproven by reams of unemployment and survey data asserting that millions of California families are still struggling to recover jobs and income, and tenant groups have reported an unprecedented spike in cases of landlord harassment and intimidation.
While specifics have not been made public, Governor Newsom’s proposal is reported to retroactively cover 100% of back and some prospective rent for income eligible tenants and extend eviction protections through September. The payment would go directly to landlords, although tenants will have the option to apply for funds if their landlord refuses to cooperate. Tenant organizers, policy advocates, and legal experts have repeatedly been excluded from key negotiations with the Governor and leadership through successive extensions of COVID-19 eviction protections.
These groups on the ground are witnessing the same issues that have persisted through the COVID-19 pandemic: informal and illegal evictions, aggressive harassment of tenants, landlord noncompliance with existing protections, overallocation of funds to corporate landlords, and structural barriers to accessing the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) reported by Housing Now! and PolicyLink. "These landlords think they can bully us until we give in. I don't think that's right," says Alejandra, a young ACCE tenant from Imperial Beach whose mother lost her job during COVID and faced eviction from three different landlords during the pandemic. "I couldn't think about school. I felt like I had to be the support system for my family."
Tenant groups warn that a tsunami of evictions and homelessness is still likely if rent relief is not disbursed by the proposed October 1st expiration date, if adequate funding is not distributed to jurisdictions with the highest needs, and if landlords who receive the 100% rent relief deal are allowed to evict and/or harass tenants.
“Governor Newsom and state leadership cannot cave to last-minute hostage-taking from corporate real estate lobbyists,” said Lupe Arreola, executive director of Tenants Together. “California will not “roar back” from COVID-19 if millions of vulnerable renters still face eviction while their landlords get five billion dollars.”
The Keep Families Housed Coalition is a statewide campaign of tenants, policy advocates, community organizers, legal aid providers and other domain experts working for effective tenant protections during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalition is anchored by Housing Now!, Tenants Together, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, Public Advocates, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, SEIU 1021, PICO California, Working Partnerships USA, AFSCME 3299 and their constituent member organizations.