California Extends Eviction Moratorium While Sitting On Federal Funds Intended To Cover People’s Rent

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Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday that extends eviction protections for another three months even though the state is sitting on federal funds intended to cover overdue rents.

The statewide moratorium was set to expire after Wednesday, but lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation to continue the eviction freeze for tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent through the end of September, while paying off 100% past-due rent for eligible lower-income residents.

Newsom’s office called California’s $5.2 billion COVID rent relief program “the largest and most comprehensive” of any state in the nation.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “A state rent relief program, funded by the federal coronavirus stimulus package, had paid out less than 10% of the money that had been requested last week, a glacial pace administrators blamed on complex application requirements and fraud prevention measures.” The outlet reported, “Groups representing property owners lobbied against the moratorium extension, criticizing the state’s slow distribution of rental aid for creating the necessity to prolong the freeze on evictions.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that “some Republicans complained that the state has mishandled distribution of the rent relief funds, and the extension has unduly harmed landlords.”

“That promise has not been kept,” said Assemblymember Laurie Davis, a Republican from Laguna Niguel. “This extension would not be necessary if we had competent leadership ensuring the state and local governments were distributing rental assistance funds to tenants and housing providers in an expedited manner.”

The eviction bill, known as AB 832, passed 34-0 in the Senate and 58-9 in the Assembly.

Christine LaMarca, president of the California Rental Housing Association, said it “will not help the tens of thousands of small mom and pop rental providers who are financially suffering and are struggling to continue providing affordable and safe housing for their residents.”

The L.A. Times cited data from a racial and economic equity nonprofit called PolicyLink that estimated about 758,000 California households collectively owed $3.5 billion in unpaid rent as of late May.

“Despite vaccinations and the economy reopening, many Californians are still in precarious financial situations,” said Assemblymember David Chiu, a Democrat from San Francisco. “Ending these protections now would seriously undermine our ability to help our most vulnerable Californians recover from the pandemic.”

The Chronicle provides more details:

Starting in October, tenants will owe their full rent again. But for six additional months, through March 2022, they cannot be evicted if they qualify for the state rental aid program.

That program is available to lower-income tenants who earn 80% or less of the median income in their county — up to $114,480 for a family of four in San Francisco — and were financially affected by COVID-19.

Under an earlier, more limited version of the program, tenants were offered between 25% and 80% of the rent they missed during the pandemic, depending on whether the owner would forgive the rest of what they owed.

Another infusion of money from the federal government has doubled the available funding to $5.2 billion. The new state plan will allow tenants to obtain 100% rental assistance, even if their property owner refuses to participate in the program, while tenants and property owners who already received aid will be able to apply again for full coverage.

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