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California extends eviction moratorium through September. Is it enough to kick-start $5.2 billion in rent relief?

San Francisco Chronicle - California will shield struggling tenants from eviction for at least three more months and attempt to pay off all of the rent lower-income residents missed during the coronavirus pandemic under a deal announced Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers.

The plan, which emerged after weeks of tense negotiations with renter advocates and property owner groups, would extend through the end of September the state’s moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent due to the pandemic.

Lower-income tenants who qualify for a state rental aid program — those who earn 80% or less of the median income in their county and were financially affected by COVID-19 — would be protected from eviction for an additional six months. From October through next March, those residents would receive extra time to apply for rent relief if a property owner attempts to evict them.

Agreement Reached to Extend California Eviction Moratorium to Sept. 30

NBC 4 - Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders from both the state Senate and Assembly agreed Friday on a proposed extension of the statewide eviction moratorium, through Sept. 30.

The eviction moratorium — put in place in March 2020 as an emergency measure related to the COVID-19 pandemic — was set to expire June 30, just five days after the agreement was announced.

Newsom and legislative leaders also agreed on paying 100% of back-rent owed by tenants who struggled to make rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an increase of relief funding.

As Wall Street looks to conquer what’s left of the rental market, a Sacramento mother of three’s eviction story hits home

A bill largely ignored by the media may be California’s last chance to avoid disaster for tenants

Sacramento News & Review - With California’s long-feared eviction reckoning on the horizon, corporate landlords have already used loopholes to throw tenants onto the streets throughout the COVID crisis, as one Sacramento woman recently learned when she and her three sons were ejected from their apartment after the oldest boy got shot four times while walking on the grounds. The disabled teen barely survived that attack, and an official notice from managers at the complex shows they used the shooting as justification to evict not only him, but his mom and 12-and-9-year-old brothers – smack in the middle of the pandemic.

The family is now homeless.

The complex maintains that it acted appropriately on behalf of other residents.  

Given the extent to which rental companies have already flouted the mission behind California’s current displacement efforts, the question of what those entities will do once the state’s eviction moratorium expires June 30 – and the federal moratorium a month after that – has housing advocates fearing the worst, particularly if Gov. Gavin Newsom is not able to pull off the last-ditch compromise he’s reportedly been working on.

 

LA City Council adopts ordinance aimed to stop landlords from harassing tenants

FOX 11 - The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday adopted an ordinance aimed at preventing landlords from harassing tenants by eliminating services, withholding repairs, refusing to accept rent payments and more.

The ordinance passed on a 13-0 vote, with two members absent. It will next go to Mayor Eric Garcetti for approval.

"I am pleased that the City Council passed the Tenant Anti-Harassment Ordinance. This means that for the first time in Los Angeles, city law defines and codifies illegal harassment activities, providing an affirmative defense for tenants in eviction cases when landlords engage in actions constituting harassment while strengthening civil penalties," Councilman Gil Cedillo, who chairs the Housing Committee, said in a statement after the vote.

California has a $5.2bn plan to pay off unpaid rent accrued during the pandemic

The rent forgiveness program would pay landlords all of what they are owed while simultaneously giving tenants a clean slate

The Guardian - California is pursuing an ambitious plan to pay off the entirety of unpaid rent from low-income tenants who fell behind during the pandemic, in what could constitute the largest ever rent relief program in the US.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, is negotiating with legislators and said the $5.2bn plan would pay landlords all of what they are owed while giving renters a clean slate.

If successful, the rent forgiveness plan would amount to an extraordinary form of aid in the largest state in the US, which has suffered from a major housing crisis and severe economic inequality long before Covid-19.

Extending the eviction moratorium: Young people describe trauma related to housing insecurity

KTVU FOX 2 - The State of California and its counties are considering extending the moratorium on evictions in hopes of staving off flooding the streets, parks and lots with unimaginable new homeless. It's already had a huge impact on the young Californians of our future.

California's COVID anti-eviction moratorium ends on June 30. Experts say, 900,000 California households, up to 15% of renters, are behind on their rent each owing about $8,000, according to the Federal Reserve. 

If that tragic eviction tsunami comes, the pandemic will have hurt the children most of all and their parents know it. 

"They got scared, they got stressed out; we didn't have anywhere else to go," said Jorge, the son of a renter in Bay Point. 

California weighs extending eviction protections past June

PBS NewsHour/Associated Press - Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will pay off all the past-due rent that accumulated in the nation’s most populated state because of the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, a promise to make landlords whole while giving renters a clean slate.

Left unsettled is whether California will continue to ban evictions for unpaid rent beyond June 30, a pandemic-related order that was meant to be temporary but is proving difficult to undo.

Federal eviction protections also are set to expire on June 30. California had passed its own protections that applied to more people.

California says changes ahead for rental relief program

San Jose Mercury News - After widespread criticism from tenants and landlords, state officials said Thursday they plan to streamline applications and step-up outreach efforts to more quickly deliver $2.6 billion in emergency rental assistance.

Despite nearly 200,000 applications requesting $543 million to cover unpaid rent, just $40 million has been distributed across California, according to state data. Advocacy groups continued to sound alarms, saying the state needs to accelerate the distribution of relief checks or risk a wave of evictions when a state moratorium expires June 30.

“I’m worried about eviction. All day, every day,” said renter Patricia Mendoza, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “The vast majority of tenants and landlords have not received rent relief.”

City Council Expands Definition of Tenant Harassment Ahead of Ordinance Vote

City News Service - The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday strengthened aspects of a draft tenant harassment ordinance, including through an expanded definition of harassment, and directed the City Attorney's Office to incorporate the revisions and bring the measure back for final approval.

The draft ordinance defines tenant harassment in several ways, including reducing or eliminating housing services, such as parking; failing to perform necessary repairs and maintenance; abusing the right to access a rental unit; threatening a tenant with physical harm; misrepresenting to a tenant that he or she is required to vacate the unit; refusing to accept rent payments; and inquiring about a tenant's immigration status.

The City Council amended the definition to include tactics like coercing a tenant to vacate with offers of payment; failing to perform necessary repairs on time as required by federal, state, county or local housing, health or safety laws; failing to minimize exposure to noise, dust, lead, paint, asbestos and other harmful building materials; and interfering with the comfort, peace or quiet of a tenant.

Some Exposition Park residents say housing developments near USC is gentrifying area

ABC 7 - Residential neighborhoods around USC look different than they did just a few years ago. Residents say that's because of companies like Tripalink, which are building housing for USC students - disrupting the makeup of Exposition Park.

Community members marched to Tripalink's office Thursday to demand a halt to all construction projects in the area. According to the group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, Tripalink is expanding at a rapid rate. 

Protesters also want their councilmember, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, to put up a fight instead of working with Tripalink, and bring affordable housing to the area.

"I am so disappointed in Marqueece Harris-Dawson because he's turned his back on us," said Beverly Roberts, who lives in Exposition Park.

San Diego Region Slow To Send Rent, Utility Relief To Struggling Tenants Facing Eviction

KPBS - More than two months ago, the San Diego region was awarded $211 million in state and federal funds to help landlords and low-income tenants who were financially impacted by the pandemic.

But only 2% of that money has been sent to eligible households, according to data obtained by inewsource in mid-May. Some are just now receiving updates about the status of their applications and many others are still waiting, housing advocates say.

The two-month turnaround to process applications and send payments to eligible households has been a problem for struggling tenants who are left in the dark. The state of California is also holding local agencies to a Sept. 30 deadline to commit 65% of the available funding.

Oakland tenants sue S.F. real estate investment company, alleging harassment

San Francisco Chronicle - Dozens of tenants in Oakland filed a class-action lawsuit and four multi-plaintiff lawsuits late Tuesday against Mosser Capital, a San Francisco real estate investment company, alleging illegal utility gouging and harassment, attorneys said.

The allegations include driving up existing rents by imposing new utility fees, unlawful entry into units, refusal to make repairs and charging tenants for necessary repairs.

The lawsuit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, demands a jury trial, unspecified damages and asks a judge to prohibit Mosser and other companies named in the lawsuit from pressuring tenants to vacate their units.

Oakland Tenants Sue Landlord Mosser Companies, Alleging Harassment, Discrimination To Force Them Out

San Jose Mercury News - Oakland tenants in four different apartment buildings are trying to put a stop to what they say has been an ongoing campaign of harassment and legal violations from their corporate landlord, filing five lawsuits this week against the property owner.

The tenants say Mosser Companies, a property company that owns buildings in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, has shut off their utilities, created unsafe living conditions, slapped them with illegal fines and fees, and harassed them in an effort to get them to leave their rent-controlled apartments.

Just like companies charged with creating hostile work environments, Mosser has created “hostile living conditions,” said Ethan Silverstein, an attorney with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the tenants. “Now, we are asking the courts to put a stop to it.”

Activists Gather At San Diego City Hall To Protest Mayor’s Police Budget

KPBS - A small coalition of activists gathered at San Diego City Hall today to protest Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposal to increase the police budget by nearly $19 million.

...

Gennea Wall, a member of the San Diego chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said more money should be going to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

“Focus on youth services, so children can succeed academically and creatively,” Wall said. “Whatever space they want to go into, you have to have those programs.”

Can this innovative housing idea survive the Bay Area’s real estate market?

Community land trusts struggle to compete in red-hot market

San Jose Mercury News - After more than three years of fighting for his East Oakland home, Rafael Luna is exhausted.

Campaigning against rent hikes that could have priced them out of their apartment building, Luna and his neighbors passed out fliers at the building owner’s office, protested outside the owner’s mother’s house and even had two run-ins with the police. This month, the tenants finally are celebrating a major milestone — a local community land trust bought the building and will convert it into affordable housing.

But he says it’s a bittersweet victory and one that opens another chapter of waiting and uncertainty.

“I don’t know if it’s worth staying here,” said Luna, a 49-year-old electrician. “It’s so much stress.”

Community land trusts – nonprofits that buy market-rate properties and then rent or sell them back to residents as permanently affordable housing – are sweeping the Bay Area, promising a new solution to the region’s low-income housing shortage. New land trusts recently formed in San Jose and on the Peninsula, and Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose are considering ordinances that could make it easier for the groups to snap up homes.

What California lawmakers could do to boost homeownership for Black families

CalMatters - When she was in grad school to become a therapist, Merika Reagan sketched out her future with a friend. They would each start their own practice, buy homes and raise their families in Oakland.

Her classmate, who could count on her family’s financial support, achieved the dream.

But Reagan struggled to find a job that checked her school’s internship requirements and still paid the rent. Her parents, who stayed in senior housing and later passed away, left no savings. She never finished her degree, bought a home or started a family — and she has a clear explanation for why their paths diverged.

“The difference is, she is white and I am Black,” said Reagan, now 46. “That did not happen for me because of generational poverty. Because of being Black, because of being a descendant of slavery, because of stolen wealth.”

Letters to the Editor: Some landlords are determined to evict. This is how Newsom can help renters

LA Times - To the editor: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of $5 billion to help cover 100% of rent debt is a huge blessing to tenants like me and thousands of others who have suffered job and income loss. (“Newsom proposes additional $600 stimulus checks and $5 billion toward rental assistance,” May 10)

Now, the governor needs to follow President Biden’s lead and let tenants access these funds even if their landlords do not participate in the state’s relief program. Otherwise, a program that keeps only some renters housed will harm California’s long-term recovery.

City hears tenant issues and tackles transparency, block grants and fire

Plumas News - At the April 28 meeting of Portola City Council, multiple members of the community spoke regarding concerns over potential future evictions as the state moves toward re-opening.

All concerned citizens claimed to be members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, or ACCE, in the six emails sent into council for the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Today I am here to support Ashley and tenants in the City of Portola. Everyone deserves to have a place to call home. Everyone deserves to have a safe, habitable, and affordable place to rest their head at night,” each email read.

Three landlords tried kicking her out in one year. Can she last much longer?

The Washington Post - Here now was another stranger at her door telling her to go. A property manager hired by the new landlord, he said. Patricia Mendoza had never seen him before, but she could guess what he was about to say. Legal terms and numbers. Friendly offers and veiled threats. He would be searching, trial and error, for the right combination of words that, like a magic spell, would make her disappear.

“Okay,” the property manager said. “You haven’t paid rent since December, right? So December, January, February. Three months.” He explained that the new owner, who had purchased in December, was planning to renovate all four of the units.

But Mendoza had heard it before. Since the coronavirus’s arrival, three landlords have owned her apartment. The first two had tried to get her out, but she was still there.

San Diego County passes strict eviction ban, rent cap to ease strain on renters during pandemic

San Diego Union-Tribune - San Diego leaders adopted a countywide temporary rent cap late Tuesday and new rules to make evictions more difficult for landlords during the pandemic.

The new ordinance takes effect in early June and lasts until sometime in August. Landlords under the new law can no longer evict tenants for “just cause” reasons, such as lease violations, and can only be removed if they are an “imminent health or safety threat.” This makes it one of the strictest anti-eviction laws in the state.

It also blocks a homeowner from moving back into their property and kicking a renter out, which is allowed now by law.

San Diego First Border County To Provide Free Legal Aid To People Facing Deportation

KPBS - San Diego County on Tuesday became the first border county in the nation to establish a program to provide free legal representation to people facing deportation.

In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors approved the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program, a one-year, $5-million pilot program that will provide free legal counsel for deportation cases.

“Our justice system should be based on facts and laws not on access to wealth and resources,” says Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who brought this proposal to the Board. She says this initiative is about making sure immigrants get “their fair day in court.”

Capitol mum on eviction moratorium extension as renters seek more time

CalMatters - With two months to go before a statewide eviction moratorium expired in January, lawmakers, lobbyists and the governor’s staff were already deep into negotiations on an extension. They reached it just days before the deadline, providing six more months of a ban on eviction. 

Now, with two months left before that extension itself expires on June 30, there is no proposed legislation on giving renters more time before the moratorium ends, and lawmakers expressed uncertainty that there would be. 

“It remains to be seen if there’s appetite in Sacramento to extend the protections past June 30,” said David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who wrote the original eviction moratorium legislation. “But I don’t think any of my colleagues have an interest in seeing a wave of mass evictions.”

County may boost eviction protections

ABC 10 San Diego - Eviction protections across San Diego County could be getting a lot stronger.

On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors will consider an ordinance that would place further limits on when a landlord can force a tenant to leave amid the pandemic.

107,000 San Diegans remain out of work more than a year into the Coronavirus outbreak.

Those who can't make the rent because of financial hardship are already protected from eviction through June 30, under state law.

Richmond seeks better protection for tenants harassed, threatened by landlords

East Bay Times - In response to troubling reports of landlords harassing or threatening their tenants, the Richmond City Council voted Tuesday to kickstart a process to create an anti-harassment law to protect renters.

The City Council directed the city attorney’s office to come back in about a month with an ordinance that would specifically lay out what constitutes “harassment” and ban it under city law.

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin, who brought the idea to the council along with Councilmember Melvin Willis, pointed to Oakland’s tenant anti-harassment law as a model to follow.

New data shows that America's rent debt now totals more than $19 billion

News 5 Cleveland - People have fallen behind on their rent during the pandemic.

In addition to the $19 billion rent debt, new data from PolicyLink shows that nearly 6 million households are behind on rent. The data stems from a partnership that aims to not only eliminate that debt but to spark change.

San Diego resident Genea Wall joined forces with tenants' rights advocates who fight eviction. ACCE, or The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, shared their protest video with us. They're working to protect people like Genea, who they believe are falling victim to loopholes in rent relief laws.