As COVID surges in California, legislation would keep renters stably housed
Sacramento, CA—As the California Legislature reconvenes today, Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) will introduce two bills to keep renters in their homes as COVID cases rise to unprecedented levels. These new policies will extend eviction protections for renters impacted by COVID through December 31, 2021, and work towards creating a framework for a rental assistance program.
“We are again staring down an eviction cliff that could leave millions homeless in the middle of a deadly pandemic,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “We must keep Californians housed and look towards providing relief to struggling renters and landlords.”
As California grapples with a dangerous new surge of COVID cases, many remain unemployed and still find it difficult to pay rent. A survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau between November 11-23 found over 2 million renter households in California reported “little to no confidence” in their ability to pay next month’s rent. Renewed stay-at-home orders are likely to increase this financial burden.
California renters are protected from eviction to varying degrees under layers of federal, state, and local policies, but both state and federal protections are set to expire in the coming months. This could lead to an overwhelming wave of evictions and newly unhoused people, leading to devastating public health impacts. A report from UCLA researchers recently estimated that lifting eviction moratoriums led to 10,700 additional COVID deaths and 433,700 additional cases in states that lifted those moratoriums.
Through Assembly Bill 3088, signed into law August 31, 2020, California largely paused evictions for non-payment of rent until February 1, 2021. For renters who experienced COVID-19 related financial hardships and were able to pay 25 percent of the rent they owed between September 1, 2020, and January 31, 2021, the law converted the remaining rent owed into civil debt, offering permanent protections from eviction for missed rental payments during the protected time period. Without a change in law, the provisions of AB 3088 will expire on February 1, 2021.
This new bill to be introduced today would extend the protections afforded under AB 3088 through December 31, 2021. In order to avoid eviction, renters with COVID hardships would need to pay 25 percent of the rent owed between September 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. If tenants are able to pay at least 25 percent by December 31, 2021, any remaining amounts owed to the landlord would be converted to civil debt and could not be used as the basis of an eviction. Landlords would be able to file a lawsuit in small claims court to recover rent owed from tenants starting January 1, 2022. If a tenant could not pay 25 percent of the rent owed between September 2020 and December 2021 by December 31, 2021, they could face eviction starting January 1, 2022.
Even if eviction protections are extended, tenants will nevertheless be saddled with overwhelming debt, and landlords will continue to face financial strain due to the loss of rental income. This mountain of debt could have serious long-term economic consequences that need to be addressed in addition to keeping Californians safe in their homes. The long-term solution to this problem is a government-funded, rental relief program.
Recognizing this need, a second bill to be introduced by Assemblymember Chiu today aims to provide an eventual framework for how rental assistance would be dispersed in California. This rental relief bill is still in the early stages of development. Details will be worked out as it becomes clear whether funding for this purpose will come from the federal government.
Lawmakers in Washington are currently negotiating legislation that may contain some level of rental assistance. Last month, Assemblymember Chiu joined legislators from several western states on a letter urging Congress to provide funding to alleviate this looming problem.
The eviction protection extension bill and the rental relief bill will be introduced today after Assemblymembers are sworn into office for the 2021-2022 legislative session. The bills are expected to be referred to Assembly policy committees in 2021.
Assemblymember David Chiu (D–San Francisco) is the Chair of the Housing & Community Development Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the 17th Assembly District, which encompasses eastern San Francisco. Learn more at: https://a17.asmdc.org/
Legislative voices on extending eviction protections
“Our Legislature must make sure that every Californian can stay in their homes during and after this health crisis. This means prioritizing renters and small landlords who have been impacted by the pandemic. 77% of my district, Central, Northeast and East LA, are renters and even with the statewide emergency measures, many low income tenants are still at risk for illegal evictions. Hundreds of thousands of Angelenos were already facing a rental crisis. This bill is urgently needed to keep men, women and children in their homes and to stop the devastation of economic evictions.” --Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles)
“Millions of Californians have been unable to afford basic necessities during this pandemic, forcing many to decide between paying rent or putting food on the table. With cases of coronavirus surging across the state, it’s critical we immediately extend protections for renters to avoid mass evictions and ensure families can remain safely in their homes.” --Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego)
“I believe that housing is a human right, but the devastating reality is that working families in my district are among the millions of renters across the state who are faced with the hardship of either job loss, reduced hours or income, or are obligated to quarantine because of being exposed to or becoming sick with COVID-19. These families deserve the right to stay in their homes without the fear of being evicted. This bill is a necessary measure to extend critical protections to Californians who need it most and will ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities have a fighting chance to overcome the ongoing challenges during this pandemic.” --Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose)
“We need to do everything in our Legislative power to keep families in their homes through this pandemic. I look forward to working with my colleague, Assemblyman David Chiu, to ensure Californians continue to have the housing protections they need through this difficult time.” --Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton)
“It has been nine months since California’s Shelter-In-Place Order. I am proud to have been a coauthor on the legislation that protected families from entering homelessness over these last few months. However, working class families continue to struggle as the economy has not been able to fully reopen, and they are once again faced with the threat of homelessness. That is why I am rejoining Assemblymember Chiu’s efforts to protect these families and keep a roof over their heads, while also giving landlords a path to be made whole without having to resort to immediate evictions.” --Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta)
“It’s important that we continue to protect millions of Californians from evictions during the pandemic. Communities across California, especially low-income communities, continue to struggle to put food on their table, let alone pay their rent. I’m proud to joint author this bill, which would extend urgently-needed eviction protections to help renters stay in their homes.” --Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles)
“The burden facing California renters is far from over, and it is the legislature’s duty to ensure this critical safety net does not disappear when they need it the most. Eviction protections must continue as long as the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing - tenants deserve to maintain hope that they can recover financially, not fear they’ll fall further behind.” --Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland)