The left side of the upstairs of the Hub. Photo taken by Annika Hom. Taken June 2021.

Just days before the Covid-19 state eviction moratorium is set to expire on Sept. 30, thousands of San Franciscans have been forced to apply for rental assistance all over again, inciting confusion and delays. 

State and local officials plan to remedy this situation by streamlining the process for affected applicants, Mission Local has learned.  But so far, that has not happened.

To avoid eviction proceedings, California renters need to pay at least one-fourth of their back rent incurred between September, 2020, to September, 2021, by Oct. 1, or prove they have applied and qualified for rent aid.

Earlier, tenants could apply to the state and San Francisco’s rent relief programs. But this month, Mission Local broke how the city quietly suspended its program, a step that has now left 3,000 to 4,000 applicants in limbo. To qualify, these applicants must quickly reapply for the state program.

While proponents said suspending the city’s program would streamline the process and speed up rent relief, critics say that, so far, it has led to hours of delay, unnecessary red tape, and confusion.

During the past two weeks, applicants have scrambled to fill out a brand new application with the state before the moratorium lapses, said Nancypili Hernandez, an organizer with the Latino Task Force Excelsior Hub. The state said it will prioritize these applications, but just completing applications has been tedious.

The Excelsior Hub, one of many places helping tenants, has already identified about 200 of its clients who applied for local funds but lacked state applications, said Hernandez. As a result, the staff has spent numerous hours in the past two weeks calling the applicants to let them know they need to reapply. 

“They [may] get evicted if they can’t jump through this hoop,” Hernandez said.

Meanwhile, there’s no word from Gov. Gavin Newsom if he’ll extend the eviction moratorium, which has been extended twice. The state law supersedes any attempt to maintain a moratorium at the local level.

If a landlord does prove a tenant is ineligible for funds, or was uncooperative in attempts to receive them, covid evictions can occur as early as November. 

Applications are critical

Rent relief resources are at the end of the article.

Vea los recursos de asistencia con la renta al final de este artículo.

State law, however, prevents evictions for pandemic-related non-payment of rent until March, 2022, as long as the tenant has applied for and is eligible for rent relief. That makes have speedy and efficient rent assistance all the more crucial, tenant advocates say. The city’s decision to shut down its program has instead created confusion, they said.    

One advocate, who would only speak on background, said that a possible fix happened on Wednesday when tenant advocates, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and state officials struck a deal to streamline the state application for individuals who had already applied to the city. Tenants will be notified with multilingual letters by mail next week, just days from Sept. 30, the advocate said.  

If this happens, it’ll be a welcome change. 

In the past two weeks, dozens of bewildered Spanish-speaking residents have shown up daily to the Excelsior Hub to question why they suddenly have to apply for state relief and what happened to their prior request. The staff is swamped rebooking clients to complete the state’s lengthy application.  

Not only are staff stretched thin, but it wastes hours that could be spent registering new applicants for much-needed rent funds, Hernandez said. 

“It’s a very different system, it’s hours of our time. Of course, it’s not been helpful,” she said of switching from local to state control. 

This wasn’t the first time tenants got caught in a sudden rule change. Last winter, the city forced some 7,000 applicants to reapply for rent relief, the state initially failed to offer printed or multilingual applications, and the programs underwent so many changes that even advocates, at times, struggled to keep track. 

Forcing residents to reapply adds further burden to tenants, said Shanti Singh, the communications and legislative director of Tenants Together, a tenants’ rights group.

“That’s [putting] an onus on a vulnerable person,” said Singh. “It’s unfortunate that anyone has to reapply in the first place.” 

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development didn’t respond to several of our queries, including how and how many people were affected. 

So far, more than 11,000 San Francisco households have requested upwards of $130 million in state rent relief, and more than one-in-three applicants have been approved, according to the SF Public Press tracker. 

Meanwhile, tenant organizers like Hernandez are rushing to register as many people as possible and continue to demand Newsom extend the moratorium deadline. “All of us need to pressure officials to extend the moratorium. Otherwise, we’ll see a massive eviction wave never before seen in San Francisco.”

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Your contribution is appreciated.

Apply for rent relief here. Solicitar ayuda con la renta aquí.

To apply for rent relief in person, people can visit the Latino Task Force Hub or other sites at the following locations:

Para solicitar ayuda con la renta en persona, visite el Latino Task Force Hub u otros sitios aquí incluidos.

Mission

701 Alabama St.
Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. / miércoles y jueves, 10 a.m. a 4 p.m.

Excelsior

4834 Mission St.
Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. / martes y jueves, 10 a.m. a 4 p.m.

Bayview

1329 Evans St.
Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. / martes y miércoles 10 a.m. a 4 p.m.

1800 Oakdale Ave.
Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. / miércoles y jueves, 10 a.m. a 4 p.m.

Or, contact them at (415) 532-7275 or LTFhub@gmail.com.

O, contáctelos al: (415) 532-7275 o LTFhub@gmail.com.

Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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15 Comments

  1. This is such a ridiculous article.

    If a tenant applied for the COVID-19 rental aide the first section of both applications – in multiple languages – literally said there were two pots of rental relief funds all tenants should apply to: county and state funds. If you went against that advice and only did the county application; that’s your fault. If you went to one of these Non-Profit Incorporated groups (i.e. the Latino Task Force) and their counselors were too dumb to help you fill it out properly, still your fault.

    1. Dear BrownPride,

      Although there are or I should rather say were two “pots of rental relief”, A) both pots were open at different times forcing some folks to do applications weeks if not months in between one another and B) the state program has undergone multiple changes since it’s release in March 2021, the major change being it’s flexibility in who can apply for the state funds. The state application has been less tenant friendly since the beginning requiring documents some tenants are not able to provide, thus only being able to fill out the local program’s application. As you may know SF has many families who are subleasing apartments or rooms, something the state’s program was not willing to help with in the beginning months. So how can this be the tenant’s fault if it’s something not even accessible to them? Also, for multiple months the state program was only offering 25% of back rent to those who had all required documents and were deemed eligible, so again requiring folks to have to search for other programs to pay for the remaining months.

      So please tell me again how it is the people’s fault? Instead focus on the dramatic changes the governments are making that are impacting us all.

      Please remember to be kind and mindful when you start bashing on the folks helping serve the community.

      Sincerely,
      A Mission Local

      1. If you’re applying this much nuance to the analysis, it’s important to point out that the relevant state law also says that any tenant who applied for rent relief can’t be evicted until at least March 2022, so the claims of an impending eviction cliff are overwrought.

  2. It’s been very interesting to watch the utter incompetence of these non-profits in administering applications, even though they received extra funding for exactly this job. One client had basic questions passed around between a case manager and a Native American community non-profit for 6 weeks with no response. Sometimes you have to point fingers at yourself. Where are the investigations of this awesome failure?

  3. There’s a debt-strike demonstration Sept. 29 at the headquarters of Veritas, SF’s largest and most notorious landlord. 1 Bush Street at 4 p.m. Peskin and other supes are expected to be there. More info at bit.ly/VTAstrike

  4. BrownPride,

    That is not how it worked. To avoid “duplicative funds” the California application through Housing Is Key explicitly stated that only people who were eligible to apply were those who owed rent between April 2020 to March 2021. They instructed that the local program in San Francisco will be for any unpaid balance from April 2021 and forward.

    If you are not in the front lines of this work, please respect those who do.

  5. And again they want the homeowners to be the ones everything falls back on. So many mom and pop landlords that losing everything they worked for. Most of these landlords also have jobs they’ve lost because of Covid. It is so wrong on every level. The government forcing landlords to support people

  6. I need help finding a place to live me and my son is honelesses we can not get a place to live i got a evitcie notes so i need a plsce to live so can you help me i am getting upset all the time so please can you help me

  7. The moratorium should not end, it should be extended until the pandemic is over and that was said in most of the ordinance bills that were pass and news updates in 2020. It does not make sense to place people at risk during the pandemic. We all need help.

    1. People would be more sympathetic to this line of reasoning if (i) the government was taking clear actions to actually facilitate the end of the pandemic and (ii) you could propose a definition by which the pandemic could be considered ended.

  8. I applied for rent relief with the state program during the first week of July which only covered from April 2020-March 2021. The city program told me to go through the state process before applying to the city program which would cover three more months only from April 2021 – September 2021). There were no errors or additional requests for documentation requested as I met all qualifications. My landlords just this week finally received payment from the State program, and now there is no city program any longer. My landlords, who are the very definition of “mom and pop” owners appreciate the funds, but they lost their building which sold at foreclosure auction in August. Out of the 9 tenants that owed back rent and all would have qualified for rent relief, only 3 including myself completed an application. This leaves my now former landlords with the only option of suing those tenants (good luck recovering money on any judgements).
    This whole system has been a disaster from the start with all the changes, incredibly slow process, placing all the burden on the landlords, allowing problem tenants who literally destroy the property while hiding behind the eviction moratorium, and worst of all, incredibly one-sided and factually incorrect media reporting like this article. The real fault of our housing crisis rests on the media.

  9. Not once has Mission Local or any other SF newspaper reported on the plight of the landlords. It is utterly unfair that we are made to house the tenants for free.
    SF has not cancelled property taxes, tenants still want maintenance. Insurance and building trades go up in price, and we have to pay all these expenses without getting paid for the services we provide. Some are trying to sell, some are on their last ropes or getting credit lines from the banks. It is illegal to steal from a grocery store or a Target. No one works for free, but it is ok to rob the landlords. Disgusting!

    1. Don’t worry! You’ll be made whole by the government, as long as you have the funds to front tens of thousands of dollars of operating expenses, possibly indefinitely! And this surprise change to your contractual responsibilities is ok, because you were definitely wealthy already! It’s kind of sad that none of the property lawyers in the city want to risk the political consequences of suing against the unconstitutional measures.

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