Local eviction moratoriums up for consideration next week by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the Redwood City Council will no longer be considered following a statewide moratorium extension.

“It’s a godsend,” Supervisor Warren Slocum said. “This legislation represents some stability for families, especially stability for kids who have been hard hit by the effects of the pandemic.”

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would be extending its eviction moratorium until Sept. 30 while promising to pay 100% of back rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and the end of this September.

The state Legislature could vote on the $7.2 billion measure as early as this Monday.

Weary the state would fail to act and cognizant of the eviction cliff renters and housing advocates feared for, Slocum and Supervisor Don Horsley were championing a local eviction moratorium to provide protections to renters through the end of the year.

The board had directed staff to return to its June 29 meeting, the last before the state’s moratorium was slated to end, with both a moratorium covering unincorporated county and a countywide version of the ordinance similar to one implemented last summer. That previous ordinance was backed by a state emergency declaration implemented at the start of the pandemic.

Despite the state’s emergency declaration still being in effect, County Counsel John Beiers warned the county could have less of a legal argument for banning evictions countywide this time around given the improvement of health and economic conditions. As a result, cities would be left to decide for themselves whether to implement protections.

But with the state’s action, Slocum and Horsley said the item will be pulled from Tuesday’s agenda, relieving the board of having to decide on the issue. Supervisors could turn to the draft again in the future if renters need additional time to apply for the state assistance after the extension of Sept. 30 expires or if a “glitch” in the program occurs.

“I’m just delighted,” Horsley said. “It’s obvious the state weathered this pandemic well and they did have a significant surplus and this is a wise use of that surplus. Hopefully, the state of California will be back where we were prepandemic.”

In Redwood City, councilmembers were poised to make a similar decision during their meeting Monday, June 28.

Written into the agenda item was an amendment that voided the discussion if the state ultimately decided to extend its moratorium. Councilmember Diana Reddy said the “state is stepping up” after developing a program that was difficult to navigate and slow to pay.

“All I wanted was protections for our residents and I was concerned the state wouldn’t put those protections in place,” Reddy said. “As long as all the components are in there and that they’re going to protect our residents and make it possible for our residents to continue to apply, I’m happy.”

Landlords weigh in

Alternatively, the California Apartment Association is displeased by the eviction moratorium extension. Rhovy Lyn Antonio, senior vice president of local public affairs, has publicly lobbied the county and Redwood City on the issue, calling on officials to instead conduct stronger outreach for the program while implementing additional resources to help residents and landlords apply.

Kevin Guibara, a property manager responsible for 240 units across San Mateo County, also implored the city to not move forward with its moratorium. Six of his tenants have defaulted on their rent, amounting to about $126,500 in debt. While some have agreed to payment plans, Guibara said he feels two others are now taking advantage of the system and an additional tenant has disappeared after moving out of state.

“The eviction moratorium lasted too long,” Guibara said. “April 1, 2020, we knew what would happen. The world literally shut down and I totally support [the moratorium] in hindsight but it’s run its course.”

Michael Pierce is the co-founder of Prodesse Properties, a firm that oversees more than 3,600 units across the Bay Area. A few hundred of his tenants have defaulted on their rent, amounting to more than $2 million, he said.

Like Guibara, Pierce said he appreciated the state stepping in to protect renters at the start but noted similar allowances have not been made to assist property owners with expenses like property tax or mortgage payments.

Having interacted with both tenants and property owners for the past 16 months of the pandemic, he said everyone was focused on getting by.

“A lot of people have done the best they can. I've personally been very impressed by those who have tried to make it work the best they can,” Guibara said.

He expressed appreciation for the state’s expansion of the relief program to cover all owed back rent, saying it finally signaled a recognition of the burden placed on landlords.

But still unresolved is the rate at which the state approves and distributes payments. After filing for the program in March, Pierce has received just under $28,000 from the hundreds of applications he’s submitted and Guibara received one of his payments two days ago.

“It is frustrating that the state of California and numerous local governments have not quickly disbursed funds to those in need, especially to mom-and-pop rental housing providers who have not seen any rent payments yet must still pay the mortgage, insurance, taxes, maintenance and other expenses,” Tom Bannon, chief executive officer of the California Apartment Association, said in a press release.

Eyeing issues

Faith in Action, a nonprofit that has lobbied the state, county and local cities to extend the eviction moratorium, shares the CAA’s concerns. The uncertainty of whether the program would be extended has caused additional stress to renters but the true source of concern was not having the payments in hand, Eva Reyes, Faith in Action’s lead community organizer for Daly City, said.

“This action by the state is long overdue,” Reyes said. “There’s a deep sense of relief … but there has to be a lot of urgency between now and September. Our county only has three months to get this money into people’s hands.”

Beyond payments, Reyes said the organization is now concerned about an increase in harassment by landlords, given that a slated program change could allow for them to claim unpaid rent from tenants who moved during the pandemic.

Both Guibara and Pierce said they have debt from such tenants but Guibara disputes the notion that landlords have been harassing renters, noting the moratorium prohibits such behavior.

Reyes said the organization is now focused on gaining clarity on who can apply for rent assistance such as people living without a formal lease or on a former tenant’s lease. Culturally sensitive outreach is also needed to inform immigrant communities of their eligibility for the program regardless of legal status.

The county will consider dedicating an additional $1 million to nonprofits that will continue assisting in outreach and enrolling residents into the program, Horsley said. The county will also use its social media platforms to distribute information, Slocum said, noting the goal is to eventually get residents to stable financial standing.

“The bill is going to come due at some point and we can’t foresee the future,” Slocum said. “The key moving forward is getting people back to work and self-sufficient again.”

sierra@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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(1) comment

tarzantom

The program may sound good, but it is taking way too long to reimburse landlords because they do not have case workers hired or trained.

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