Open Letter to Gavin Newsom on the COVID Housing Crisis

Governor Newsom:

On behalf of ACCE Action and our 16,000 dues-paying families across the state, we want to make sure you know where we stand on the developing proposal to address the looming eviction tsunami.

The members of ACCE, and the communities we work in and on behalf of, are low-income and predominantly African-American and Latinx. These communities — our communities — were facing some of the harshest impacts of the housing crisis prior to the pandemic, with massive push-out of long-time residents and growing homelessness.

We are both saddened and horrified to hear that you may be poised to abdicate your responsibility to keep families housed — something the State should see as its responsibility at any time, and most urgently during a pandemic.

In September, many Californians will be losing unemployment assistance. Others in California never received it.

In September, many Californians will not regain the income they had prior to the pandemic. Many had already been paying over 50% of their income on housing and had no savings to get through an emergency.

How are they to make housing payments when they can barely put food on the table?

How are they to pay back rent?

We are talking about our children. Our seniors. Our veterans.

This cannot be business as usual. The people of this state need and expect solutions that rise to the scope and scale of the problem.

Our State leaders are willing for the state to go into debt for infrastructure projects, but not to keep people sheltered? You are willing to give tax breaks and bailouts to corporations, but not forgive the housing debt of people who did what you said, stayed home, and do not have enough income to pay the rent? We as a country can wrap our heads around bailing out big corporations, but not our children and our seniors?

Do not abdicate your responsibility as leaders of this state to do what is in your power to protect the millions who are low-wage workers, unemployed and struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

You, and the rest of the state leadership, need to assume — acknowledge as yours — the responsibility to keep families housed. It is a basic necessity, and there is no one else in a position to get this done — it is on you.

To keep people housed and prevent escalating displacement and homelessness you need to:

  • Extend or replicate Rule 1, enacting a statewide moratorium on all evictions (except nuisance activity that rises to the level of affecting the health and safety of other tenants), while the pandemic is still raging. Our streets are already full of desperate people — including families with children and our seniors — who cannot find shelter from the storm. Do not put more people into the streets during a pandemic!
  • Prevent future evictions and housing debt for renters who are unable to pay the rent because of this pandemic, by forgiving the unpaid rent of people without the funds to pay it; and
  • Establish a relief fund for struggling landlords who are not receiving rent payments.

Short of this, you are complicit in pushing more people and families out of their homes and into the streets.

There is money in this state to cover the costs of these measures. Again, it requires your leadership to decide that this is a priority. Raise the funds with a tax on California’s wealthiest — who have seen their wealth grow by nearly half a trillion since the pandemic!

Please do what’s right and enact legislation and/or executive orders to implement these three components of a holistic plan to prevent a tsunami of evictions that would do tremendous harm to millions of people, and our state as a whole, for years to come.

Towards a better California that works for all of us,

Sasha Graham, ACCE Action Board Chair

Christina Livingston, ACCE Action Executive Director