With state protections for California renters due to expire April 1, a new survey of 58 organizations across the state shows that hundreds of thousands of California renters and families are experiencing significant barriers to accessing the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and are at significant risk of eviction or homelessness.
The survey, conducted by Tenants Together from November 2021-February 2022, drew respondents working in 27 California counties that are home to 88% of the state’s renters. The overwhelming majority of these respondents reported significant barriers to ERAP, including language and technological barriers, excessive wait times, lack of status updates, incorrect application rejections, insufficient community outreach, program shutoffs, and major gaps in coordination between local and state agencies.
New data from the U.S. Census’ American Household Pulse Survey estimates that 850,000 Californians are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Meanwhile, the majority of submitted ERAP applications registered in the state Housing Is Key dashboard have not yet been processed. In the words of one respondent, “We… have been doing our best to answer questions tenants have about how to access ERAP. Unfortunately, what this usually means is a cycle of referrals to organizations already at capacity. [ERAP] assistance is at best substantially delayed and at worst never comes.”
While the Governor and state legislature allowed California’s moratorium on evictions for inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 to expire in October 2021, Assembly Bill (AB) 832 created an extended protection period in which indebted renters who qualify for ERAP are able to contest their evictions in court. With AB 832’s more limited protections set to lapse, hundreds of thousands of households are waiting months at a time to receive rent relief. Renters waiting for funds and even renters who have received ERAP funds are finding themselves facing eviction in court, often with no counsel as legal aid providers are stretched to capacity.
“State eviction protection should also be extended,” said another respondent. “It seems funding and inadequacy of the [ERAP] program will be an ongoing issue. It's very important that tenants feel safe and secure that non-payment will not be [the cause] of eviction after March 2022.”
The survey is available at bit.ly/erapsurvey. Video of Tenants Together's press conference, featuring testimony from ERAP-eligible California tenants facing eviction as well as a breakdown of the survey results, can be found here.