HQ pursues same flawed solution to moratorium on COVID deportations

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“My brain stops because it’s so overwhelmed with everything,” said Britt Macias, 36, Thursday, May 6, 2021. She has been living in her car with her dog Bullet since being evicted from her home in Sacramento. California officials are exploring a third extension of the eviction moratorium passed last year to protect tenants during the pandemic.

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Throughout the pandemic, California leaders have failed to identify meaningful solutions to help struggling tenants and their landlords – two groups whose survival is falsely presented as mutually exclusive. Many local governments have offered rent assistance and used federal and state moratoria to avoid evictions. Most of the time, they took interim measures and kicked the road over and over again, desperately waiting for the state to intervene.

Well, California caught up with the can that they kept beating. And the state is repeating the same flawed tactics as twice before. Members of the California Senate and Assembly privately met with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office this week and announced the third extension of the state’s moratorium on evictions on Friday.

An estimated 758,000 California households are in arrears with rent and face an average debt of $ 4,700, according to National Equity Atlas. Tenants’ rights advocates say many families have reduced their needs such as food, water and medicine with the threat of eviction looming.

The Legislature could vote on the extension as early as Monday, two days before the moratorium expires. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the nationwide deportation ban by one month on Thursday, but said it would likely be the last time.

Rent relief has always been touted as the government’s best solution to keeping people housed. California has $ 5.2 billion in federal renter assistance, and Newsom has pledged it will use the money to cover 100% of the state’s unpaid rent so that landlords are paid. But recent reports have shown that very little has been attributed. Of the $ 688 million requested so far, only $ 61.6 million has been provided, according to the state’s Housing is Key portal.

Local programs run by Sacramento and Sacramento County only used about 12% of their allocation.

Any deal between Newsom and lawmakers must go beyond the federal extension until July. California needs enough time to distribute its massive bankroll of rental relief.

More importantly, however, the expiration date must fall before the end of the legislative session in September or after lawmakers return in January. An expiration date in the fall would trigger a catastrophic wave of evictions and deepen the already severe homelessness crisis in the state. Officials said on Friday that the moratorium would end on September 30.

California must also make it easier for tenants to apply for rental relief. State officials said more than half of the applicants abandoned their applications before they were completed. This is unacceptable for a financial assistance program that is supposed to keep people housed.

Many Californians have taken other steps to cover their rent, such as using credit cards, payday loans, and other forms of borrowing. They do not qualify under the current rules, but still face growing debt that could hurt them in the future. Lawmakers must expand eligibility for rent relief so that residents who have not waited for the government to act also have a chance to get a clean slate.

The true extent of housing unaffordability and insecurity in California has been exposed by COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, eviction protections designed to keep people safe inside have become a battle between tenants and landlords, led by advocates and real estate groups who were already at odds before COVID. By granting eviction assistance to rent assistance programs, heads of state have turned a public health problem into an economic one.

These days, Newsom is campaigning to tout California’s high vaccination rates and an economy that is coming to life. The owners point to our economic gains as proof that the moratorium extension is no longer necessary.

Yet the data tells a different story. As employment among middle- and high-wage jobs surpasses pre-pandemic levels, employment rates for people earning less than $ 27,000 per year are down by more than 36%, according to a tool. followed by the resumption of Harvard University. And less than half of California residents in the lowest economic quartile are fully vaccinated.

We continue to abandon our most vulnerable residents. Paying off 100% of California’s rental debt would be a big accomplishment, but it doesn’t lift low-income residents out of poverty. Heads of state must recognize that short-term solutions exacerbate economic disparities that make it harder to build consensus on life and death issues like housing security.

The legislature has repeatedly rejected housing bills that would make it easier and faster to build more affordable housing. As a result, the housing crisis worsened during the pandemic and prices are now reaching all-time highs. California needs leaders who look at the whole picture and recognize that a vote today to expand eviction protections must be followed by a vote tomorrow that ensures tenants can afford to stay in this home when their lease expires.

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