The California legislature voted Thursday to extend the state’s eviction moratorium until June 30. It was set to expire at the end of the month
To avoid evictions, residents must pay at least 25 percent of the total back rent owed between September 2020 and June 2021, according to Assembly Bill 91. That must be paid by June 30.
Tenants cannot be evicted for failing to repay the remaining 75 percent, but landlords can pursue payment through small claims court. However, they must now wait until Aug. 1, rather than March 1, to go to small claims court. The bill also prevents landlords from charging fees for late rent owed between September and June 30.
The bill also dictates how the state will use $2.6 billion in rental assistance, a mix of state and federal funds. California will prioritize households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income first, then communities “disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” then households who don’t fit the two first qualifiers but earn less than 80 percent of the area median income, according to the bill.
In San Francisco, 50 percent of area median income is $51,250 for a two-person household and $64,050 for a four-person household; 80 percent of area median income is $82,000 for a two-person household and $102,500 for a four-person household. See the full area median income figures here.
“The whole idea is to leverage the dollars and look at paying back rent about 80 percent, but also get about 20 percent of that rent forgiven,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom when the deal was announced earlier this week.
Data from the Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst’s office puts the current amount of collective rent debt in San Francisco between $135 million and $332 million, and growing every month.
If landlords decline the agreement to forgive any part of the rent, the state will only pay the required 25 percent of owed debt to ensure the resident is not evicted, at least until July.
Shanti Singh, legislative and communications director for Tenants Together, said the voluntary nature of the program gives tenants rights groups deep concern, but hopes landlords take the deal, which she sees as fair. Already, many landlords are offering discounts to current lease holders.
“I think that smaller landlords will probably be more inclined to participate because they’re in the most need,” Singh said. “Landlords who need the rent payments to make their mortgages, especially when banks have not been particularly forgiving.”
According to the bill, 65 percent of the rental assistance funds must be distributed by June 1, and the rest should be distributed by Aug. 1. Without another moratorium extension in a few months, evictions could resume with residents still waiting for tens of millions of dollars in relief.
When the legislation was first proposed by California Assemblymember David Chiu, the deadline was set for the end of 2021.
“There’s no way we’re going to be out of the woods by June,” Singh said. “January 31 was an arbitrary deadline. Now we’ve gone and done the same thing, we’ve set yet another arbitrary deadline, June 30.”
Amy Price, a rental assistance manager at the Eviction Defense Collaborative, one of five community organizations responsible for distributing rental assistance funds from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development Give2SF Housing Stabilization Program, said,
“Now that it’s ten months into it, people are owing anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000 and up … so there’s a lot of panic about that as well.”
The Eviction Defence Collaborative spent January rushing to distribute the last of their remaining funds to tenants at risk of eviction before the previous Jan. 31 deadline, Price said. Now that the deadline has been extended, those five groups have more time to get money in the hands of residents.
Weekly new unemployment claims in San Francisco have hovered around 5,000 for the most recent month of available data, which was updated Jan. 9.
The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development did not respond to requests for comment, and it remains unclear when San Francisco residents will be able to apply for more aid or how the application process will be different from the Housing Stabilization Program.
Update 2/3: Mayor London Breed announced that San Francisco will receive $26 million in rental assistance.