The coronavirus pandemic brought unprecedented economic devastation to a state with an existing housing crisis, with 2.8 million California residents out of work as of June. But California lawmakers are still hammering out a statewide plan to keep people in their homes who are struggling to pay their rent.
The California Judicial Council on Thursday voted 19-1 to keep a ban on evictions and foreclosures in place through midnight on Sept. 1. This gives state lawmakers a little over two weeks to come up with a more permanent solution before the legislative session ends at the end of the month.
In the meantime, tenants are scraping by. About a third of people nationwide can’t make a one-time housing payment, according to an August survey from Apartment List, though 90% of them are able to pay the rent by the end of the month.
Chris Salviati, a housing economist with Apartment List, said the recent end to $600 in unemployment benefit payments could make that struggle even greater.
“There’s going to be a lot of people definitely at risk for eviction,” he said. “The degree is to which landlords think they decide they’re gonna actually go through with those evictions.”
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Housing uncertainty is weighing heavy on thousands of people in Riverside County. Maria Torres, a single mom in Indio, has been relying on emergency rental assistance funds to make her monthly rent payments. She no longer works as a housekeeper like she did before the pandemic, as she was only getting a few hours a week that earned her barely enough to cover a babysitter with her 8-year-old son home from school.
Now, she’s worried about what will happen if school doesn’t resume in-person classes and she’s unable to go to work. She wants to keep her son in his home, a place they’ve lived for about two years.
“He’s happy in his home, he loves his home,” she said in Spanish in a phone interview with a translator. “That’s what I continue to fight for.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom in a Wednesday press conference spoke optimistically about the legislature addressing short-term rental concerns before the end of the month. He also underscored the need for proposals to accelerate the growth of housing.
“We are committed to getting something done over the next few weeks on eviction protections, and addressing the needs of our most vulnerable renters and small landlords as well,” Newsom said.
This spring, Newsom signed an executive order that allows municipalities to pass their own rules preventing people from being evicted. But not every local city has followed suit, meaning some residents — including Torres — only have protections against evictions through the Sept. 1 deadline unless state lawmakers reach a legislative solution.
Here’s are the rules for evictions in Coachella Valley cities:
Cathedral City’s eviction moratorium will be in place until the state executive order allowing such policies expires, or the city ends the local emergency declared at the start of the pandemic. Tenants must tell their property manager before or within five days of when their rent is due the reason their payment is delayed, pay whatever they are able to, and show that their household has had a “substantial decrease” in income or high medical costs. Back rent will have to be paid within 60 days of the ordinance ending.
Coachella’s eviction moratorium was recently extended through Sept. 30 with a unanimous city council vote. Tenants must notify landlords if they need to temporarily suspend payments in writing within 30 days after their rent is due, the ordinance says. They must make up the missed payments within six months after the end of the current state of emergency.
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs had an eviction moratorium in place, but it expired earlier this year, Mayor Scott Matas said. The state-level protection from the California Judicial Council applies to residents here.
The city of Indian Wells has an eviction moratorium for tenants who can’t pay rent as a result of a substantial decrease in their household or business income, or substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses related to the pandemic. The tenant has to tell their property manager in writing within 30 days after the rent is due. In late July, the council voted to extend the moratorium to Oct. 31.
Indio officials didn’t pass a specific eviction moratorium, so the state-level protection from the California Judicial Council applies. The city in June put more than $300,000 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds toward tenant services and eviction protect programs.
La Quinta officials didn’t pass an eviction moratorium, said city manager Jon McMillan, noting the streams of aid coming in from other sources and support for small business owners.
Palm Desert also created an emergency rental assistance program using about $240,000 in HUD money. That program will be operated by the Jewish Family Services of the Desert.
Jessica Gonzalez, housing director for Palm Desert, said that the program was established after a survey of about 1,000 residents. The city found that 18% of households were suffering financially from COVID-19. The funds can help property owners and provide relief to residents for a maximum of $5,000, Gonzalez said. Applications are being reviewed.
Gonzalez also oversees the city’s approximately 1,500 affordable housing units. She said they haven’t had unusually high delinquency, noting the propensity of people who may have used the now-expired unemployment data to stay current.
“Those unemployment benefits have been really been able to capture the need for the residents,” she said.
In Palm Springs, evictions are suspended through Sept. 30. Tenants who are unable to pay their rent for COVID-related reasons must notify their property manager within 15 days of the rent being due, and provide documentation if requested. Tenants will have to pay their unpaid rent within 180 days of the city ending its emergency declaration, but in the meantime must pay what they can.
Rancho Mirage has an eviction moratorium in place through Sept. 3 and could be extended again by city officials. Tenants must notify their landlord in writing no later than seven days after their rent is due that they will be unable to pay their rent.
Unincorporated Riverside County
Tenants who live in areas that have not passed an eviction ban, or unincorporated areas of Riverside County like Thousand Palms, Bermuda Dunes, Mecca and Thermal, are left at the mercy of state rules.
Brooke Federico, public information officer for Riverside County, said instead of an eviction moratorium, the county focused on creating the United Lift rental assistance program — which is available to residents regardless of what municipality they live in.
The $33 million fund, managed by Lift to Rise and Inland SoCal United Way, is providing up to $3,500 in rental assistance to up to 10,000 households.
Residents can apply during a 10-day window each month using an application on unitedlift.org. The next round of applications opens on Aug. 15.
Melissa Daniels covers business, hospitality, and economic development in the Coachella Valley. Reach out at (760)-567-8458, [email protected], or on Twitter @melissamdaniels.