Following strong community outcry for additional time to deal with growing rent debts, the Redwood City Council will discuss whether the city should direct staff to draft an eviction moratorium before the state’s protections expire.
“The reality that people are going through is really difficult. … At the state level, county and city, we cannot wait until the last minute to prepare anything,” Adriana Guzman, lead community organizer for south San Mateo County with the nonprofit Faith in Action, said.
On Monday, the Redwood City Council will consider directing staff to draft an emergency ordinance, installing an eviction moratorium until Dec. 31. If approved, staff would return with an ordinance by the following meeting that would need an affirmative vote by at least five of seven councilmembers.
The item comes from a request made by Councilmember Diana Reddy who called on the city to create its own ordinance in case the state fails to extend its moratorium. She made her request after dozens of residents spoke of the economic hardships they still face including dwindled savings, insufficient work and food insecurity.
“Thirteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Redwood City residents remain unemployed and in poverty. Many of our families remain at risk of eviction after more than a year of economic crisis, which has been hardest for low income and immigrant families,” Reddy said in a staff report. “Residents will not be able to suddenly start paying full rent and other debts in July.”
Councilmember Lissette Espinoza Garnica, who campaigned on pushing for an eviction moratorium, said thousands of county residents face eviction if the state’s moratorium expires June 30.
Without local protections, the region’s housing crisis would only be exacerbated, Espinoza Garnica said.
“This is just another extreme burden if we allow people to be evicted at this time,” Espinoza Garnica said. “It would be a mega crisis.”
Housing advocates like Guzman say moratorium expansion is necessary to allow residents ample time to apply for the state’s rental assistance program.
“They are really in extreme desperation and frankly it’s a lot of stress. They are really concerned that this expansion is not going to happen and the damage that that has on families is so huge,” Guzman said.
San Mateo County renters and landlords currently have access to a $47 million program that offers to pay 80% of back rent if landlords agree to forgive the remaining 20%. If landlords are unwilling to participate, renters are still eligible for assistance with 25% of their rent debt.
County officials have said the program has been undersubscribed potentially due to a burdensome application process they say has since been remedied. Guzman disputed the improvements, noting many residents still need assistance with understanding the complicated questions.
The county has invested funds into nonprofits to assist with the application process but Guzman said additional investments are needed, suggesting Redwood City and the county use funding from the federal American Rescue Plan relief package to boost programs.
An additional barrier to the program could be apprehensive landlords, many small businesses themselves, who are unwilling to forgive portions of the massive debt. Extending the moratorium would allow for the state to make a final decision on whether it will contribute additional funds to the rent relief program, enabling 100% of rent to be repaid, Guzman said.
Having lobbied state, county and city leadership for months, Guzman said she’s hopeful officials will extend renter protections but noted the last-minute decisions have done little to alleviate stresses. Still, she said the organization intends on continuing efforts until a final decision is made.
“We hope that they do the right thing. We’re going to keep coming to the City Council until we see the issue going forward,” Guzman said.
Please visit smcgov.org/san-mateo-county-emergency-rental-assistance-program for more information of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
The City Council will meet remotely via Zoom at 6 p.m. Monday, June 14, and will be streamed live at redwoodcity.org and on Comcast Channel 27 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99. Remote public comments will be received by telephone during the meeting, prior to the close of public comment on an item. *67 (669) 900-6833, Meeting ID: 994 8182 5639.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106