San Francisco tenants who accrued thousands in rent debt during the pandemic cannot be kicked out onto the street yet, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously announced on Tuesday.
“There are many unresolved issues about the rent relief program, but what’s absolutely clear is that we need more time before the protections lapse,” said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who proposed the legislation. “I want to thank my co-sponsors for recognizing the urgency of the moment.”
As statewide eviction protections expire at the end of the month, local housing and tenant advocates worry that thousands of San Franciscans who failed to pay rent will quickly lose their homes. Compelled by the same fear, Preston introduced two-part legislation that seeks to extend local eviction protections through the end of the year.
He presented part one on Tuesday, which shields renters from nonpayment evictions for 60 days and prohibits late fees or other punishments landlords might impose on tenants. Preston said he’ll pursue more encompassing legislation in the coming weeks.
In the past, Preston has mentioned copying the pre-existing language of the state moratorium. This keeps tenants safe from nonpayment eviction if they agree to pay 25 percent of their outstanding pandemic rent debt to their landlords.
Preston said rent protections shouldn’t be eliminated as long as thousands of people are still suffering financially. On Tuesday, the supervisor estimated San Francisco’s rent debt as anywhere between $160 million and $400 million.
Roughly 63 percent of San Francisco residences in 2020 were occupied by renters, making it the city with the largest percentage of tenants in the Bay Area, a report found.
With the need so vast, leaders are looking for solutions. A few weeks ago, Mayor London Breed announced $90 million in federal rent relief funds to help dig constituents out of debt, which build upon other city rent relief initiatives.
“This is a time of tremendous need, and to be sure. But at the same time, we know that help is on the way,” Preston said, referring to these funds.
Still, only a fraction of San Francisco tenants have actually received any city or state rent relief.
“Job loss is a major driver of homelessness,” said Jennifer Freidenbach, the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness. She agreed that local protections should last the year, and then officials could reassess afterward. “You certainly want enough time for the economy to get back on its feet.”
Passage was expected — nine of the supervisors were listed as co-sponsors — and quick. Preston promised that part two of the legislation will “be before us in the coming weeks.”