Information provided by the State of California.
On Jan. 29, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to extend the state’s eviction moratorium through June 30, protecting millions of Californians struggling as a result of the economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the passage of SB 91, California leads all states by enacting the strongest renter protections in the nation, according to a recent release.
“Once again, California is leading the way by enacting the strongest eviction protections in the nation, which will provide relief for millions of Californians dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” said Newsom. “This law not only provides greatly needed support for tenants, but also provides relief to small property owners in need of assistance to pay for mortgages, thanks to $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funding.”
On Jan. 25, Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced an agreement on the legislation to extend the eviction moratorium established last year under AB 3088, which was set to expire at the end of the month.
The legislation, signed on Jan. 29, pauses evictions for tenants who declare under penalty of perjury an inability to pay all or part of the rent due to a COVID-related reason. Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to property owners, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction, even after the moratorium ends.
SB 91 also establishes the State Rental Assistance Program to allocate the $2.6 billion in federal rental assistance California will receive. The program will target aid to income-qualified tenants most at-risk with unpaid back rent. Assistance will also be extended to property owners who agree to waive 20% of unpaid rent. By agreeing to this waiver, property owners will become eligible for 80% in rent reimbursements for amounts owed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.
According to the release, approximately $150 million of the federal funds will be reserved for tenants in counties with populations of 200,000 or less and the additional funds will be available to counties with populations larger than 200,000. The state will directly administer $1.5 billion through contracted entities, and local governments can either join forces with the state or administer their own programs. The State Rental Assistance Program will begin accepting applications from property owners and tenants in March.
SB 91 prohibits the selling or assigning of rental debt that was accrued from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 until the end of the moratorium. However, the prohibition is permanent with respect to the rental debt of people at or below 80% of Area Median Income who meet the eligibility requirements of the rental assistance program. Property owners or other housing providers are also prohibited from using COVID-19 related debt as a negative factor for evaluating a housing application, or as the basis for refusing to rent to an otherwise qualified tenant.
The Jan. 29 legislation and AB 3088 build on the state’s strongest-in-the-nation rent cap and eviction protections passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Newsom in 2019. Continuing efforts to address the housing availability and affordability crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Newsom’s proposed 2021-22 State Budget provides $500 million for infill infrastructure and an additional $500 million in low-income housing tax credits to support low-income housing development. The administration is streamlining and reorganizing state housing programs to maximize housing production, while also continuing to support affordable housing.
Newsom has signed legislation to boost housing production, remove barriers to construction of accessory dwelling units and create an ongoing source of funding for borrower relief and legal aid to vulnerable homeowners and renters. The 2019-20 State Budget made a historic $1.75 billion investment in new housing and created major incentives for cities to approve new home construction. In the first weeks of his administration, Newsom signed an executive order that created an inventory of all excess state land and the administration has launched partnerships with California cities to develop affordable housing on that land.
California has also launched the “Housing is Key” campaign in vulnerable communities aimed at connecting renters and property owners with helpful information and resources.