The moratorium on evictions in California has just ended. The Bay Area is not ready

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The devastating economic impacts of the pandemic are far from over, especially for low-wage workers who have been hit hardest by job losses, but California landlords are once again allowed to evict tenants who have to a rent back. The state’s moratorium on evictions, which has been in place in one form or another since March 2020, expired on Friday.

And the Bay Area is not ready.

How we react in the days to come will say a lot about our region. Failure to act and protect tenants will increase homelessness, which we can hardly afford given that over 35,000 people were homeless in the Bay Area before the pandemic.

A few counties and municipalities in the region (Alameda, Solano and Sonoma counties, towns of Oakland and Berkeley) currently have their own moratoriums on evictions that last beyond Friday. But most, including San Francisco, don’t. And they can’t pass one now because the law that created the state protections, AB832, precluded some local eviction protections until April 2022.

However, there are still several steps local governments can and should take to protect their residents.

Prevent evictions and foreclosures: AB832 prevents local governments from limiting evictions for non-payment of rent, but they can still limit evictions for other reasons. Thanks to a 2019 law, most evictions in California must have a reasonable explanation, known as “just cause.” Cities or counties could extend protections against just cause evictions to cover all evictions except those relating to an imminent threat to health and safety. For example, they might exclude evictions related to “substantial rehabilitation,” capital improvements, demolitions, or the owner’s desire to exit the rental market.

Meanwhile, local governments and philanthropists can increase resources for debt relief to fill gaps in federally funded rent assistance programs. In a serious attempt to stay up to date on their rent, many tenants have taken on debt in the form of predatory or payday loans with high interest rates, credit card debt, missed car payments, or debt. to family and friends. Federal rent assistance funds generally cannot be used to help tenants with these types of expenses, only rent and utilities.

This is just one example of how tenants have slipped through the cracks. Stabilizing housing requires a holistic examination of what it takes to get people back on their feet after the pandemic. This includes food assistance, money for medicine or extra help with childcare so that a parent can return to work.

Make tenants aware of rights and available resources; owners on bonds: COVID-related rental assistance programs and tenant protections are difficult to navigate, and the nonprofit service providers who have helped struggling tenants throughout the process have been working to their maximum capacity. Despite state and local government efforts to make it known that financial assistance is available to tenants, not everyone who needs help knows it. In a study released in July by the Urban Institute and Avail, 57% of tenants and 40% of small landlords were unaware of the availability of emergency rent assistance. Some people who need help the most (such as non-English speakers and people living in unauthorized accommodation) may be the most difficult to reach.

Local governments and philanthropy can help strengthen knowledge education about your rights and support local tenant organization groups to raise awareness of rights, resources and advocacy opportunities. Public and private funders can provide low barrier rapid response grants and ongoing support to local tenant organizations to do this work, as well as providing funds to trusted neighborhood-based community organizations. They are best placed to raise awareness and help hard-to-reach populations navigate the application process, which can be exceptionally difficult for people who do not have internet access or are not tech savvy. .

Prepare our systems to adequately protect tenants: Cities and counties could adopt, as San Francisco recently did, a “right to counsel” for all tenants facing eviction, regardless of their immigration status. There is currently not enough funding to provide legal services to all tenants, although a lawyer can reduce a tenant’s eviction risk by over 70%. A lawyer can also help negotiate reasonable moving times, reduce monetary settlements with landlords, and help tenants obtain rent assistance or other accommodation. Perhaps more importantly, the attorney can help keep eviction records out of a tenant’s records, which not only helps preserve credit scores and access to lower interest rates. , but also improves a tenant’s chances of finding housing in the future, as landlords often refuse to rent to those who have already been evicted.

Demand more from the state: The California legislature should allow cities and counties to adopt the strongest local eviction protections and permanently require landlords to give tenants 15 or more days to pay rent, rather than the only three days they are allowed. under the current rules. The California Judicial Council, meanwhile, should remove the priority of eviction and rent collection cases and demand consistency in the process in state courtrooms. Currently, the eviction process has different rules in each county court.

If you were unable to pay your rent during the pandemic, you should immediately seek emergency rental assistance from the state or your local government. This help will always be available; Find out how to apply on Housingiskey.com. If you are threatened with deportation or if you receive court documents, contact a local legal aid organization immediately.

Forcing struggling tenants to navigate the eviction and relief bureaucracy on their own is not the solution.

It’s a watershed moment to live up to what the rest of the country sees as our values ​​in the Bay Area – diversity, equity, economic inclusiveness and compassion for one another. Let us show them that they are not wrong.

Tomiquia Moss is the CEO and Founder of All Home.


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