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California’s eviction protections will almost certainly not be extended once they expire after September 30, the Speaker of the National Housing Assembly said Thursday.
The legislative session ends on Friday, so this is the last day lawmakers could extend that deadline. But the political appetite is just not there to act, according to David Chiu, a Democrat in San Francisco who has led previous efforts to block the displacement of tenants amid the pandemic.
“I thought our eviction protections for tenants should be extended beyond September 30. The delta variant and the end of many unemployment benefits make this even more urgent,” Chiu told CalMatters. “Unfortunately, some of my colleagues feel differently, and there isn’t enough consensus for that.”
The current set of eviction protections were extended on June 25, just days before they expired. At this point, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said he hoped the economy was going full steam ahead so that another moratorium was not needed. Rendon’s office declined to comment on the lack of another extension.
“The legislature has kind of set itself a trap because it will not sit when it expires,” said Brian Augusta, legislative attorney for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which has been pushing for stronger protections throughout. of the pandemic. “So that means what we see is what we get.”
Augusta said the governor could still convene a special legislative session to extend protections before the end of the month, or issue an executive order like he did at the start of the pandemic to stay legal proceedings over evictions. But he said it was unlikely.
The governor’s office also declined to comment.
The California Rental Housing Association, which represents more than 20,000 homeowners and has sued the state over the latest round of protections, was happy with the decision, but not surprised.
“Our lobbyists didn’t come to us and said, ‘Hey, you know, we’re going to have to compromise somewhere or something,'” said Sid Lakireddy, CalRHA board member. “So I think lawmakers are starting to get this too. This can’t go on and on.”
Eviction protections in place say tenants will have a defense in court if their landlord evicts them for non-payment of rent until September 30. 25% of their monthly rent since September 1, 2020, in installments or in bulk, by September 30.
The protections are tied to $ 5.2 billion in federal assistance for rent relief. People earning less than 80% of their regional median income who have been financially affected by COVID-19 can still claim the full amount of missed rent and avoid eviction. They can now also ask for three months rent at term.
But the distribution of these dollars remains a problem. While the state received requests for rent assistance of around $ 1.9 billion, it distributed only around $ 491 million. Still, that’s an increase of about 500% since the current moratorium was passed in late June, according to Russ Heimerich, spokesperson for the state’s Agency for Business, Consumer Services and Housing.
According to a recent analysis of California’s rental debt by Policy Link, an Oakland-based research group, approximately 753,000 families are in arrears with rent and owe a cumulative $ 2.8 billion.
“I think everyone was hoping that more families would have received the funds by now, and that the people who did not apply or were turned down were a minority, as opposed to an overwhelming majority,” Francisco Dueñas said. , Executive Director of Housing Now. !, a tenant advocacy group.
The existing law has work-arounds that, in theory, should prevent the tsunami of evictions that tenant advocates and researchers predicted. Heimerich said tenants would be protected from eviction proceedings by the courts for an additional 15 days to claim their missed rent – a provision that runs until March 2022.
To take advantage of these protections, tenants will have to prove that they have applied for the rental assistance program in court, Heimerich said. He said the state agency is working closely with the Judicial Council to brief judges on the proceedings.
While the stopgap may look promising on paper, tenant advocates are wary of its application.
“The problem with relying on the courts is that it forces people to go to court,” Dueñas said. “And a lot of people don’t respond to a court notice. They just move out.”