Gavin Newsom extends California’s eviction ban despite opposition from Realtors and landlords
BY THE SACRAMENTO BEE
Three days before it was set to expire, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday extended an eviction moratorium until the end of September and boosted funding for a rent relief program, despite opposition from landlords and realtors who argued the protections have created more problems than they’ve solved.
Newsom first signed the eviction moratorium into law in August. He then extended the provisions in January and announced a rent relief program that used $2.6 billion in federal funds to help landlords and tenants pay down debts.
“California is coming roaring back from the pandemic, but the economic impacts of COVID-19 continue to disproportionately impact so many low-income Californians, tenants and small landlords alike,” Newsom said when a deal with lawmakers was announced last week.
The newest law Newsom signed, Assembly Bill 832, promises to bump funding to $5.2 billion to cover 100% of outstanding rent debts and streamline the application and approval process for doling out the funds.
Previously, tenants who paid at least 25% of their rent starting in September 2020 could qualify for relief to cover another 80% of their arrears. Their landlords had to agree not to evict them, and they needed to prove pandemic-related hardship while meeting certain salary qualifications. If landlords didn’t want to participate, tenants could still receive some aid to cover up to 25% of their remaining rent.
The state ran its own program using $1.4 billion in funds, while local governments were given $1.2 billion to oversee their own systems.
But only about 10% of the 54,520 tenant applicants to the state-run program have so far received assistance totaling $61.6 million, according to June 23 state data. Locally run rent relief programs, including those in the Sacramento region, also struggled to distribute millions of dollars in relief.
Lawmakers negotiated with Newsom and other stakeholders in recent weeks to lengthen the deadline and improve the program to keep potentially hundreds of thousands of Californians in their homes past July 1.
“We are sitting on over $4 billion of rental assistance that could go to folks who are struggling. The idea that we could turn on the eviction spigot in three days when we could help these folks is not one that I think makes sense,” Assemblyman David Chiu, the San Francisco Democrat who wrote the law, said during a Monday committee hearing.
Tenants are also still obligated to pay 25% of their rent between September of last year and Sept. 30 of this year. Landlords can additionally pursue “just-cause” evictions, meaning they can request a tenant to leave due to complaints of property damage, nuisance or noise issues and criminal activity.
Groups representing landlords and realtors said it was unfair to extend the moratorium when owners weren’t at fault for the delays.
“It is frustrating that the state of California and numerous local governments have not quickly disbursed funds to those in need, especially to mom-and-pop rental housing providers who have not seen any rent payments yet must still pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and other expenses,” Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association, said in a Friday press release.
In a statement, the California Rental Housing Association also said the plan would create “more confusion and uncertainty for owners and renters.”
Specifically, the group said the new law creates “additional and unnecessary hurdles” in the application process that could “overwhelm the agencies” overseeing the programs. The association also argued that the extension lets tenants “abuse” their responsibility to pay landlords any assistance they receive.
Still, the measure passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. AB 832 passed the Assembly on a 58-9 initial vote, and the Senate approved it with a 34-0 vote. Several Republicans in both houses voted in favor of the law.