Tenant advocates are denouncing a compromise plan backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that would pay off some back rent and prevent some evictions over the next six months of the pandemic.
The deal, run by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review, includes sb91. It would extend the eviction moratorium until July, and would provide a few other tenant protections.
The state would also offer to pay off 80 percent of back rent – if landlords agree to forgive the other 20 percent.
But Tenants Together and the Housing NOW California coalition say the measure falls far short of what’s needed. The deal, they say
leaves millions of tenants at risk of eviction and crushing housing debt by making landlord participation voluntary, and keeps us all at higher risk from a spreading virus.
While the deal will benefit indebted tenants whose landlords choose to participate, the consequences could be dire for tenants whose landlords opt out. Despite months of organizing and advocacy for effective rent relief, a coalition of over a hundred tenant, labor, legal aid, faith-based, and social justice organizations was completely shut out of negotiations leading up to the Governor’s announcement.
The coalition will hold a press conference Tuesday/26 at 10 am to call on the Guv and the Legislature to take a different approach:
Financial relief to landlords to address unpaid rent for eligible tenants must be coupled with additional tenant protections, such as long-term prohibitions on no fault evictions, including Ellis Act evictions, and limitations on rent increases.
Small mom and pop and struggling landlords must be first in line and tenants must have protections as intended by the $2.6 billion in federal funds.
There should be no further preemption of local authority. Jurisdictions must have maximum flexibility to craft locally tailored solutions. State laws should complement local rent relief efforts, not dictate them.
Here’s the key element: The coalition is arguing that any deal that gives relief to big landlords also has to have conditions. “You can’t take $10,000 from the state and then use the Ellis Act to evict your tenants,” Anya Svanoe, a spokesperson for the coalition, told me.
I would go a step further: If the state of California is going to give any sort of bailout at all to big landlords, then the Landlord Lobby – one of the most powerful political interests in Sacramento – should have to agree to stop blocking tenant reforms.
This is an opportunity not just to protect tenants from eviction but to change the way we think about housing.
Tenants in the state owe more than $3 billion in back rent. Some small landlords are struggling to pay their mortgages. It’s going to take a lot of state and federal money to address the crisis.
But tenant groups argue that there’s no reason to give money to an industry that has poured vast amounts of political money and capital into making sure that tenants have only limited rights and that cities can’t protect existing vulnerable communities.
If tax dollars are going to underwrite big landlords, they say, the public needs to get something in return.
Let’s see if the Guv is willing to stand up to Big Real Estate.