By Nicole Knauer
SACRAMENTO, CA – The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left hundreds of people unemployed and unable to make sufficient income to pay for their housing. This led to eviction protection plans that were enacted in April 2020, and were repeated again in June of last year.
Last Thursday, once again, state lawmakers passed a bill to extend the California eviction protection plan for another three months. This course of action has left tenants, landlords, and lawmakers concerned, and exposed the lagging relief aid responsible for this course of action.
The state’s relief aid has struggled to provide funding for most tenants and landlords, paying a total of $2.4 billion dollars to fewer than half of all those in need of financial support.
The average tenant must wait three months to receive financial support, and legislative leaders extended Assembly Bill 2179 in order to delay eviction for the thousands of tenants still waiting to receive their due relief.
Assemblymember Tim Grayson (D-Concord), the bill’s co-author, explains that “it is on us to take care of the thousands of Californians — landlords and tenants alike — who reached out to COVID-19 emergency rental assistance programs for help and still have their applications pending.”
Grayson said that “it would be cruel, wasteful and unfair to subject these Californians to eviction or the loss of rental income now, when they have done everything asked of them, and distribution of their emergency rental assistance is imminent.”
Christine Kevane LaMarca, president of the California Rental Housing Association opposes the bill. She expressed concern for landlords’ financial burden as a result of the continued eviction protection plan allowing relief aid to be delayed further.
LaMarca urged eviction plans to halt and relief aid be distributed quickly due to the effects it is having on landlords. “By halting applications for those in need, and extending the eviction moratorium,” LaMarca stated, “rental housing providers are being forced to carry the financial weight of the pandemic and some of them will lose their properties as a result.”
Many tenants who need the aid are unaware of the program’s existence, or have language barriers preventing them from completing necessary forms. Data gathered from Tenants Together, an advocacy group, in a survey of 58 tenant organizations across California, shows that 90% of organizations assisting tenants in their applications stated that tenants reported difficulty applying.
Half of those surveyed reported the main problems were due to language barriers and lack of community outreach. In another poll, 34% of renters express feeling “very concerned” about not having the necessary relief and finances to pay for their housing.
Due to these issues, some tenancy organizations have filed a discrimination complaint. Tiffany Hickey of the Asian Law Caucus said, “Throughout this complaint process we’ve really been pushing to have this investigated and addressed as quickly as possible because people are being left out of relief because they can’t access the program.”