LOS ANGELES, CA — Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill Friday providing rent relief for thousands of struggling Californians impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the new bill, the state will cover 80% of the rent you missed between April 2020 and March 2021, as long as it was due to COVID19 reasons, and as long as the landlord forgives the remaining 20% and does not pursue evictions.
Governor Gavin Newsom today signed legislation to extend the state’s landmark eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021, 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.
“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 Governor 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.”
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 percent of unpaid rent. By agreeing to this waiver, property owners will become eligible for 80 percent in rent reimbursements for amounts owed between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.
It will also extend the state’s eviction moratorium another six months. But some tenant rights advocates fear it could leave some renters out in the cold.
Gov. Newsom says California will freeze evictions for struggling tenants impacted by COVID-19 for another five months, until June 30, 2021. More than $2 billion in federal stimulus funds will help with rental assistance.
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 percent 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 Governor signed the following bills into law today:
- SB 89 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) – Budget Act of 2020.
- SB 91 by the Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review – COVID-19 relief: tenancy: federal rental assistance.
Today’s 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 the Governor in 2019. Continuing efforts to address the housing availability and affordability crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor’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.
The Governor has signed major 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, Governor 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 launched the “Housing is Key” campaign in vulnerable communities aimed at connecting renters and property owners with helpful information and resources.
The federal money can only be spent on households whose income is 80% or less of the area median income. It prioritizes relief for households at 50% or less of the median income and those unemployed for at least three months.
Under the new bill, the state will cover 80% of the rent you missed between April 2020 and March 2021 — as long as the landlord forgives the remaining 20% and does not pursue evictions.
“We need to make sure folks are stably housed and folks aren’t being evicted and going into long term debt based on a pandemic they have no control over,” said San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu.
Oakland renter and housing advocate Terra Thomas lost her job last year to the pandemic. She says landlords have the right to decline the rent relief program. Tenants could still apply for assistance under the bill but many families could suffer.
“Leaving the rent relief program in the landlords hands can lead to the most marginalized people being left out in the cold,” said Thomas.
“We’re going to monitor this aggressively,” said Chiu.
Chiu doesn’t want any families left out. He says the legislature may consider extending the moratorium again this summer.