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Newsom’s proposed spending cuts spur backlash from affected California groups

Just minutes after Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a revised state budget with billions of dollars in spending reductions on Friday, advocates for affected programs began showering reporters with statements of dismay.

The gist of the complaints was that after Newsom and the Legislature had devoted attention and money to expanded health care coverage, prekindergarten education, income supports for the poor, undocumented immigrant assistance, homelessness, climate change and a myriad other left-of-center causes, the new budget would punish their recipients.

Building the California Dream Alliance, a consortium of nearly 60 groups, was among those disappointed with Newsom’s budget, issuing a compendium of comments from its members, including the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“Although we appreciate the governor maintaining previous expansions and grants, his approach balances the budget on the backs of low-income Californians through over $3 billion in cuts,” Linda Nguy, an associate director of the organization, said. “Instead of considering additional revenue solutions, the governor proposes to cut in-home supportive services for people who were previously excluded from Medi-Cal due to their immigration status, deeper CalWORKs cuts, and continued cuts to housing and homelessness prevention programs.”

Fact check: Do all San Diego housing agencies see state tenant protection laws as irrelevant?

February 16, 2024

During a public meeting last November, a top elected official asked the San Diego Housing Commission to explain the findings of an inewsource investigation.

The Housing Commission, which is responsible for managing roughly $300 million in federal Section 8 housing vouchers to help low-income tenants pay rent, is required to ensure rent increases are reasonable before using taxpayer money to pay for them. But officials were approving rent hikes without checking if they exceed the cap in state law, the investigation revealed.

Jeff Davis, the Commission’s then-interim CEO, told elected leaders in that meeting the agency doesn’t think the state’s law protects voucher holders. He said all six public housing agencies in San Diego County, as well as “many, many other California housing authorities,” have been operating the same way.

But that’s not accurate.

Officials with three other public housing agencies — in Carlsbad, Encinitas and National City — say they have been checking to ensure landlords are following the state’s law, the California Tenant Protection Act, which took effect in 2020. The law sets a 10% maximum cap on rent increases within a 12-month period. Some properties are exempt, such as mobile homes, new developments and some single-family homes.

When asked by inewsource, officials with all three agencies said they review the housing characteristics each time a property owner wants to raise the rent on a tenant with a Section 8 voucher. Nonexempt properties are held to the state’s 10% maximum cap, they said.

Carlos Aguirre, director of the National City Housing Authority, said the Tenant Protection Act is a tool to keep rents reasonable. Not complying impacts the overall housing market as well as the agency’s ability to help low-income tenants pay rent.

“There’s an upward pressure on rents,” Aguirre said, adding that landlords are in the market of making a return on their investment. “So that’s a tool for us to make sure that our rents are not increasing to a point where there’s not even a market for Section 8 vouchers in National City.”

Officials with the San Diego Housing Commission, which serves 17,000 families as the region’s largest public housing agency, have viewed the law differently.

They have said they don’t have the authority to limit rent increases for tenants receiving federal assistance. Meanwhile, a pending lawsuit aims to force the agency’s compliance with state law and claw back any public money that was illegally paid to private landlords. The Housing Commission has since announced plans to cap rent hikes for voucher holders, instead billing it as a change in agency policy. But they say that change can’t take effect without approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the Section 8 program.

Alternatively, officials in Carlsbad and National City started enforcing the law without approval from HUD. Officials in Oceanside and the county have also recently taken the same steps without HUD approval. inewsource is awaiting Encinitas’ response to the same question.

“Most housing authorities across the state at this point are complying” with state law, said Madeline Howard, a senior attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “So, to the extent that San Diego is saying everybody else is doing a bad job, that’s not true.”

Residential and commercial buildings in National City are shown on, Feb. 14, 2024. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

‘That affects the local market.’

Public housing agencies are responsible for managing the federal Section 8 program — one of the most significant safety nets for low-income residents anywhere in the U.S. — and are required to ensure rent increases are in line with the market and adhere to applicable laws.

But when the California Tenant Protection Act took effect in 2020, it set off a yearslong legal debate about whether those state protections extend to federal voucher holders.

Conflicting interpretations of law in state government

In an attempt to settle the debate last summer, California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to every public housing agency in the state. He said the law clearly protects voucher holders and warned officials to stop approving unlawful rent increases on low-income families the federal program was intended to protect.

Aguirre, the director in National City, said he had no doubt that the Tenant Protection Act applies to Section 8 voucher holders. National City’s housing agency has taken that stance since the law took effect in 2020.

The agency even has a form letter it sends property owners to remind them of the law, informing them of notice requirements and outlining the state’s 10% cap on increases.

“It’s the law,” he said. “They have to abide by it.”

Comparing the cities

The housing authorities in Carlsbad, Encinitas and National City are much smaller, serving far fewer low-income families — about 1,700 combined, a fraction compared to the 17,000 families served in San Diego.

Some properties are exempt from state law, such as mobile homes, new developments and some single-family homes. But in late 2022, National City passed an ordinance extending the state’s cap to include mobile home parks, following complaints from residents.

The National City Housing Authority uses roughly $13 million every year in Section 8 housing vouchers to help about 1,100 low-income families pay rent. Aguirre said almost every landlord in the program asks to raise the rent every year, and six people are tasked with reviewing those requests.

And when a request comes in, Aguirre said his team checks every time whether a property is exempt to ensure compliance with state law before approving it.

“Every Section 8 housing specialist (in National City) is well aware of those exemptions, and our Section 8 manager as well,” Aguirre said, adding that following the law plays an important role in slowing the rise in rent. “If we didn’t call attention to it, then we have this upward pressure that affects the local market.”

Officials in Carlsbad say they have taken the same approach — at least since late 2021, when the agency’s current leadership took over, said Christian Gutierrez, housing services manager.

Carlsbad Village is shown on Feb. 14, 2024. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource) Credit: Zoë Meyers/inewsource

Carlsbad’s housing authority is about half the size of National City’s, serving roughly 500 low-income households with about $8 million to spend every year in federal vouchers. Two people are responsible for reviewing rent increase requests, Gutierrez said.

Any time a landlord wants to raise the rent, officials start by checking the math on any increases over the past 12 months. They also check housing characteristics to see if the property is exempt only if the proposed increase exceeds the state’s 10% cap, Gutierrez said.

Housing officials in Encinitas didn’t start checking compliance until after they received Bonta’s letter last June, according to city spokesperson Lois Yum.

The Encinitas Housing Authority gives out about $1.3 million every year in federal housing vouchers to help roughly 100 households pay rent.

Between January 2020 and November 2023, records show nearly one out of every 12 rent increases for Section 8 voucher holders living in Encinitas exceeded the state’s cap. A couple increases were as high as 35%.

But officials said they took immediate steps to ensure compliance after Bonta’s letter, Yum said. They developed a tool to check the percentage for each increase and started checking housing characteristics to see if the property was exempt.

And for all of the increases that already exceeded the state’s cap, Yum said they have since been adjusted to bring everyone in compliance.

They lived in an East L.A. home almost 30 years. Now their landlords want to move in.

Days before Christmas, María Vela was saying goodbye to the narrow one-bedroom apartment in East L.A. that has been the backdrop of her family’s lives for the last 30 years.

Vela looked at her wedding photo hanging in their living room. The couple hosted their wedding reception out on the driveway, Vela said, gesturing outside. They raised four children in the duplex near the end of a cul-de-sac in their historically Latino neighborhood. Their kids enjoyed a quintessential East L.A. upbringing until one-by-one they left for college, except for Vela’s youngest girl, a high school junior.

Now the family is being evicted by Christmas so their landlords, who live next door, can move in.

Family evictions

Evictions are on the rise nationwide and in California. While most Los Angeles-area evictions happen because tenants struggle to pay rent, even tenants who manage to remain current with rent are at risk of eviction. These “just cause” or “no fault” evictions happen because landlords want to move into their tenants’ units, renovate a unit or leave the rental market.

No-fault evictions are contributing to the displacement of families from their longtime communities, along with other factors such as rising rents, too few affordable units, and expired tenant protections.

“Homeowner move-ins have been bringing about this exodus of Angelenos leaving their communities because they can no longer afford rent,” said Cinthia Gonzalez, an organizer at Eastside Leadership for Equitable and Accountable Development Strategies (LEADS). “It’s a heavy load.”

After state pandemic-era tenant protections expired, average monthly eviction filings surpassed pre-pandemic levels in a dozen of California’s most populous counties, according to court records obtained by CalMatters.

Counties that extended local eviction moratoria saw delayed, but still stark, eviction increases. That was the case for Los Angeles County, which saw a 17% increase in eviction filings the first eight months of 2023, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Even though there have been state and local efforts to strengthen protections against evictions for “just cause,” those protections didn’t help Vela’s family stay in their longtime home.

A man who identified himself as one of Vela’s landlords told CalMatters he didn’t want to comment on the matter.

Part of a community

Vela has lived in the same home since she immigrated to the U.S. in 1996.

She met her husband at a party while he was visiting Mexico. Within months they wed and went together to East L.A., where he was already living with his three brothers.

When the brothers came across the duplex unit in the early 1990s, it was dilapidated and littered with trash in a neighborhood with active gangs. The brothers asked the landlord if they could fix it up in exchange for being able to live there. The landlord agreed and charged them $300 monthly.

As the family grew, the home started to feel smaller.

Over the years various landlords neglected the property, Vela said. Walls are chipping, holes where mice have crept in are covered by unsecured wood, and mold grows in the bathroom.

But they were able to remain there long enough to give Vela’s children the stability and joyful upbringing they needed to succeed.

Carolina Correa, 23, graduated from Brown University and landed a job at an environmental justice nonprofit in San Francisco. Diana Correa, 26, graduated from UC Berkeley and is pursuing a master’s degree in history. Jesús Correa, 19, started at UC Merced in the fall.

The youngest, 16-year-old Fabiola Correa, wants to follow in her siblings’ footsteps and become valedictorian or salutatorian at Esteban Torres High School. She’s eyeing UC Berkeley too.

Carolina remembers whispering with her siblings as they lay on bunk beds or on the floor, to not wake her parents in the bedroom. They slept in the living room and another living space in the apartment and had little privacy, but it helped them stay close.

Their father taught them to ride bikes and he’d watch them ride in circles on the dead end street, Carolina said. He hosted carne asada barbecues with family. Block parties with live bands and traditional Mexican food and sweets brought neighbors together. 

“It was really nice to just have that literally right in front of my house, on my street, and to be a part of community in a way that is something so special to East L.A.,” Carolina said.

Displaced neighbors

Tina Rosales, an attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, likened the family’s displacement to other times in history when Latinos were moved from their neighborhoods, including the years before Dodger Stadium opened in 1962.

“This is heartbreaking, but it’s not new,” Rosales said. “It’s a trend. As we put more value on homes and people owning property, we tend to displace the communities that have been there forever.”

Rosales is among the attorneys who worked on a tenant protection law recently passed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to close loopholes to “just cause” eviction protections. The law requires owners who move out tenants and then move themselves or family members  in to reside there for at least a year. And it will require landlords to pay one month’s rent in relocation assistance.

Tenant advocates pushed for the law because they believe landlords were taking advantage of the rules. Landlords sometimes use owner move-ins as a pretense, Rosales said, when actually they want to put their units back on the market at a higher rent.

“It’s important to balance the interests and needs of both (landlords and tenants) while recognizing that housing is a basic need, and as a society we must prioritize keeping people housed,” said Sen. María Elena Durazo, the Los Angeles Democrat who authored the law. “Market housing is a business, and like in many areas of business, consumer protections are necessary in order to ensure that bad actors out to increase their own profits are not able to take advantage of or abuse the consumer.”

Los Angeles County and city have even stronger just cause protections, but local advocates say even those rules have weak spots.

For instance, in L.A. County landlords or their family members who move into tenants’ units have to live there for three years. If they don’t, the previous tenants have a right to move back in under their original lease terms and rent.

But the law seems to place the burden of keeping track of the landlords on tenants. Javier Beltran, deputy director of the Housing Rights Center in L.A., said he hasn’t heard of a case of a tenant successfully reclaiming their unit because of landlord violations.

“In reality once (tenants) move out, it’s hard to keep up with that particular tenant,” Beltran said. “They probably moved on to a different place, situated themselves and to a certain extent, moved on. It’s hard for them to come back.”

‘Terminated for no fault’

On a recent December morning, Vela sat at her kitchen table with her hands on her temples, a folder filled with papers spread in front of her.

“All of this is so frustrating,” she said with a sigh.

On the table was a scanned copy of the most recent $1,000 rent payment she sent, various phone numbers from housing leads scribbled on a notepad, and her official 60-day eviction notice issued October 23.

“You are hereby notified that effective sixty days from the date of service on you of this notice, the tenancy by which you hold possession of the premises is terminated for No Fault Just Cause…” the letter reads.

She spoke in a whisper and raised the volume of her television so her landlords couldn’t hear her talk about the eviction. They live next door and the walls are thin, she said.

Vela always knew eviction was a possibility. The duplex had been bought and sold multiple times in the last several decades, and each new owner had been willing to keep them as tenants, until now.

Eastside LEADS helped Vela delay her eviction by a year and a half after finding flaws in the landlords’ eviction process. For example, Gonzalez said, the landlords offered less than the required amount for relocation assistance.

But after the organization sent a letter to the landlords, they corrected their mistakes and agreed to pay the $12,688 in relocation assistance the county requires in this case.

Searching for housing

Vela has found searching for housing difficult. She and her husband aren’t fluent in English, they are undocumented and they’ve purchased most of their belongings in cash, which means they don’t have much credit history.

Also the going rents in that neighborhood are sometimes double what they’re paying now, which would be impossible for them to afford on her husband’s meatpacking salary, she said.

At one recent home viewing, Vela brought her daughter Fabiola to translate. The landlord interrogated Fabiola: Did the family have visitors often? Did they party? Were they loud?

Vela left feeling dejected and worried about Fabiola.

Carolina has been trying to help from the Bay Area, where she lives. After work or on her breaks, she finds housing leads and makes phone calls on behalf of her parents. She adds herself and her boyfriend as co-signers, hoping that’ll increase her parents’ chances.

“I’ve submitted applications for them to move into places and then burst into tears afterward,” Carolina said. “I want them to get into these places so bad, but because I’m not there I can’t facilitate further. I do what I can and so does my older sister, but it’s difficult.”

Diana, the oldest, feels guilty she hasn’t been able to help as much as she’d like.

“(I was) really angry with myself and with the timing,” Diana said, adding that if the landlords had waited five more years, she could finish her master’s program,  start working and pool her money with her siblings to buy their parents a house. “I was like, damn, I’m not ready.”

Recently she created a GoFundMe page hoping friends and community members will help defray the cost of storage units and moving trucks.

Harder to thrive

Vela said she is coming to grips with the fact that their only option may be to leave East L.A., and maybe Los Angeles altogether. With no immediate home to go to, Vela thought about moving in with her sister in San Bernardino County temporarily while her husband stays in his brother’s El Sereno apartment, closer to his work.

The lack of affordable housing for very poor residents is a major factor in the state’s rising homelessness problem.

Margot Kushel, director of UC San Francisco’s Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, said even if this family isn’t immediately homeless after vacating their home, they could be at risk for homelessness in the future.

Kushel’s research on homelessness in California revealed 49% of those without a home had been “non-leaseholders,” usually people staying with friends or family until it isn’t possible anymore. Those living arrangements often are precarious and lead families on a path toward homelessness, Kushel said.

She listed other challenges contributing to people’s vulnerability to homelessness: high deposit fees, moving costs, the impact of moving on peoples’ jobs and personal stability.

A recent law passed to limit what California landlords can charge for security deposits won’t be in effect until next summer,  too late for Vela.

Evictions and potential homelessness impact entire families, Kushel said, risking people’s ability to graduate from college or high school and to build wealth in the future.

“Housing is really at the root of thriving,” Kushel said.

Mixed emotions

The solution is to build more affordable housing far faster than Los Angeles is currently doing, said Stuart Gabriel, a real estate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Most investment in housing creation is driven by profit and built by the private sector.

Not everyone purchases property to make a profit, he said. “It’s a very complicated and nuanced story and doesn’t lend itself to easy culprits and easy answers,” he said.

Vela’s family recognizes their landlords probably just want more space for their family. She said the landlords are two siblings who live with their elderly mother.

The family has conflicting feelings about the landlords and their family’s situation.

“It’s complicated for us because they do have a case and we don’t anymore,” Diana said. “I get it. You bought a house. But at the same time you knew we were here.”

Vela’s husband said he’s grateful for the time they were allowed to stay.

“It just so happened that someone bought the house and now we have to leave. But without resentment or anger,” Jesús Correa Cabrera said. “We’ll close the door behind us and say ‘thank you very much.’ And life goes on.”

Within days the family slowly disassembled their East L.A home, packing belongings they’ve accumulated over several decades into black trash bags and cardboard boxes.

Diana, Carolina and young Jesús’s high school class photos, Fabiola’s shelves of books, the quinceañera and wedding photographs, were all taken down.

As Christmas neared, they summoned a sense of hope for the future.

“I feel sad, kind of stressed for my family,” Fabiola said as she sorted a drawer of colored pencils and pens. “But at the same time I feel like we’re going to get out of this and maybe start a new time of our lives. A new beginning.”

The day before the family was preparing to move out, they heard they were approved for an apartment in El Monte, a one-bedroom  for $1,700 a month, plus utilities and rental insurance.

It’s far from their community, smaller, and too expensive for them to afford comfortably. But the family said they have no other choice.

Tens of thousands still waiting as California COVID rent relief program runs low on cash

In March 2021, the Los Angeles film industry was just beginning to roar back to life after a prolonged COVID-induced slump, but Michael Addis, a freelance filmmaker, was still deep in the hole. For more than a year he’d been racking up IOUs to his landlord and the tab stood at $43,792.

So Addis turned to an emergency state program designed to help people like him pay down rental debt accumulated during the pandemic.

Later, in the summer of 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom himself had touted the program, Housing Is Key, as the largest of its kind in the nation. “We’re laser-focused on getting this assistance out the door as quickly as possible,” he said at the time.

Addis heard back 20 months after he applied.

On June 5, 2023 — his 61st birthday — he received an email, which he shared with CalMatters, notifying him that a payment had been approved in full.

But by then it was too late. Addis had already downsized, moving out of his apartment a few blocks from the Marina Del Rey harbor to a smaller spot in the San Fernando Valley. He had also borrowed money from members of his family to pay his old landlord back, hoping that he’d be able to write off the new debt with the relief funds from the state. But once the company that owns his apartment complex, Equity Residential, received a check from the state, they sent it back, citing program guidelines that deemed Addis no longer eligible for assistance.

“It’s just painful to think that the money that was allocated to solve my problem was sent back and I’m still in debt and now I have to downsize again,” he said, explaining that he’s about to move to Simi Valley, even further from his teenage son, who lives with Addis’ ex-wife. “I’m not in any way leaning on the state but I had a bad year — a bad couple years — and there was a program to help. And they helped me in the worst possible way.”

Addis’ long wait for California’s emergency rental relief program isn’t unusual. Though the application window closed in March 2022, more than 70,000 households still have applications pending on the eve of 2024.

California lawmakers created Housing Is Key with billions of dollars in federal relief money, initially guaranteeing everyone who applied in time and was approved would get paid. The ultimate goal of the program was to stem a flood of evictions, as state and local emergency eviction bans came to an end.

For many Californians, it’s been a vital lifeline. The program has sent more than $4.7 billion to nearly 370,000 lower-income households, according to data from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

But a sizable, unlucky minority of applicants — tenants and landlords alike — have had to wait…and wait and wait.

In the meantime, many have borrowed money from friends and relatives, pleaded and haggled with impatient creditors, missed monthly payments and turned to online support groups for tips on how to sidestep the program’s red tape.

Still others have been evicted, though the state doesn’t maintain records on how many.

Tenant rights advocates and anti-poverty groups accuse the state of perpetuating a cruel bait-and-switch on some of the state’s neediest. The state’s housing department blames some of those same advocates for the delay, pointing to a lawsuit that slowed down the application review process.

For those still waiting, the hold-up has taken on a new degree of urgency. Housing Is Key might soon be out of cash. Though California’s Housing and Community Development department, which oversees the program, recently “identified additional funding,” it’s unclear whether that will be enough to pay out every last valid claim.

How much is left?

The state’s housing department declined to estimate when the program will run out of money or how many people are likely to get help before that happens. That figure depends on two unknowns: How many of the as-yet unprocessed applications will ultimately be approved and, of those, how much rental debt each applicant is owed.

“Given this inherent uncertainty, we remain focused on assisting as many eligible households as possible with the funding we have available,” said Pablo Espinoza, the department’s deputy communications director.

But the available figures offer a few hints.

As of early November, there were at least 33,658 initial applications still pending, according to data published by the housing department. Another 39,401 applicants were initially denied, but awaiting an appeal review. That’s a total of 73,059 applications.

Though CalMatters reported in early October that the department projected the program would soon be out of money, program administrators were able to dig up some more. According to Espinoza, because the program is in its “final wind-down” phase, money initially set aside to pay administrative overhead or leftover from locally-run programs is now available to help renters. That’s left a new projected balance of roughly $171 million.

But that’s “not nearly enough,” said Anya Svanoe, a spokesperson for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, one of a handful of organizations that sued the department last year over its administration of the rent relief program. “Tens of thousands of people are at risk of being evicted or made homeless, not because they were ineligible, but because the state ran out of money.”

Svanoe points to the average pay out, published on the program’s online data dashboard: $12,018.

Western Center Roundup – January 2024


Western Center’s Analysis of Gov. Newsom’s Budget Proposal

In response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2024-2025 budget proposal, Western Center issued an analysis on the impact his proposed funding priorities would have in several key areas of concern. These include: access to housing, health care, and public benefits for Californians. Note that this analysis is the first in a series of communications Western Center will distribute this session as we advocate for just budget priorities. Read the full analysis here.
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WCLP Blog: Making Food Prescriptions a Reality in California

Western Center Outreach & Advocacy Associate Abe Zavala-Rodriguez recently wrote a blog post uplifting California’s innovative food prescription pilot programs. Food and nutrition supports have been proven to be successful at helping people to treat, manage, or even prevent chronic health conditions as seen in pilots and studies not only across California but also nationally. These programs are an especially critical tool towards achieving health equity goals since BIPOC communities are disproportionately impacted by health issues and poverty. Read the full blog post here.
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Western Center’s Newest Team Members
Western Center continues to grow to meet the needs of Californians with low incomes. Please join us in welcoming our newest team members, Etecia Burrell, Senior Health Advocate; Rebecca Gonzales, Policy Advocate, and Danny Sternberg, Attorney. We are overjoyed to have them on the Western Center team!

Join our Team
As Western Center continues to position itself for greater reach and impact in 2024, we currently have two positions open: Policy Advocate – Housing; and Senior Communications Strategist.

Please share these opportunities widely with your networks!

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California lawmakers strike landlord deal to cap security deposits, add eviction protections

California lawmakers brokered deals with landlords and Realtors to send Gov. Gavin Newsom bills to enhance protections for tenants — a victory for renters, in spite of some significant concessions.

The Legislature late Thursday approved Senate Bill 567 from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, which would strengthen protections for renters facing evictions for renovations or landlord move-ins. Durazo pitched the measure as a way to prevent homelessness for those at risk of losing their housing.

The California Apartment Association and real estate groups strongly opposed SB 567, which builds on a 2019 measure that created a framework of eviction protections for tenants. But Durazo and tenant advocates were able to work out a last-minute deal with the apartments’ group that shifted their stance to neutral.

Lawmakers earlier in the week approved Assembly Bill 12 from Assemblyman Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, which would cap security deposits at one month’s rent. Haney also amended his bill to allow smaller landlords to ask for up to two months’ rent.

California renters have traditionally had little power in the Capitol, where groups representing Realtors and landlords hold significant sway.

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California lawmakers approve bills including eviction protections and mental health care reform

The California Legislature voted Thursday to bolster eviction protections for renters and close a loophole in an existing law that has allowed landlords to circumvent the state’s rent cap.

The eviction reform bill was among hundreds approved before the end of a late legislative session, including giving striking workers unemployment benefits and reforms to the state’s mental health system.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 14 to act on the bills by signing them into law, rejecting them with a veto or allowing the bills to become law without his signature.

The rental bill by Democratic state Sen. María Elena Durazo would update a 2019 landmark law creating rules around evictions and establishing a rent cap at 5% plus the inflation rate, with a 10% maximum.

The governor was the architect of the 2019 law on renter protections, but he has not indicated whether he will sign the new eviction legislation, the bill sponsors said.

Under the 2019 law, landlords can evict tenants for “at fault” or “no fault” reasons. “At fault” reasons include failure to pay rent on time. Under “no fault” rules, landlords can terminate leases merely by saying they need to move into units, make repairs or take the units off the rental market.

Renters’ advocates said some landlords have exploited the “no fault” evictions to get around the state’s rent cap. They pointed to a case in Santa Clara County in which a landlord evicted tenants, citing the need to move in their relatives, but then re-listed the units at nearly double the price.

Under Durazo’s new bill, landlords moving into their unit or renting to family also must identify the people moving in, the rental must be occupied within three months of eviction and they must live in the unit for at least a year. Those who evict tenants to renovate properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices.

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Homeless advocates give list of demands to San Francisco

A coalition of homeless advocates and civil rights attorneys released a list of demands for the City of San Francisco to settle a lawsuit that forbids police from forcing homeless residents off public property.

The letter sent to City Attorney David Chiu on Thursday offers a proposed settlement to resolve the lawsuit, Coalition on Homelessness v. City of San Francisco. A U.S. District Court judge found in favor of the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit last year, and the court issued an injunction against San Francisco.

“At its heart, San Francisco’s homelessness crisis is an affordable housing crisis,” said Cynthia Castillo, Policy Advocate of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. “Instead of ensuring that Californians without housing have universal access to a safe, permanent, and affordable place to live, harassment tactics continue to displace and segregate unhoused people. The city’s homelessness problem will never be solved until there is an affordable place for people to live.”

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Who is waiting for rent relief

More than 250,000 California renters, unable to make their rent during the height of the pandemic, applied to the state for assistance — only to have those applications denied or sit pending for months.

Now, for the first time, we know a little bit more about who those tenants are.

On Friday, the California Housing and Community Development Department published a demographic and geographic breakdown of the applicants who were denied federal emergency rental assistance distributed by the state, along with a summary of all the renters who are still waiting for help — and the reason why they’re still waiting.

The new data comes courtesy of a legal settlement struck in late May between the agency and a coalition of tenant rights organizations.

  • Madeline Howard, staff attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty: “This is federal money that is being given out by the state, so I think it’s tremendously important that there be transparency about who is getting the funds and that it’s being distributed in a non-discriminatory way.”

Under the terms of the May 30 agreement, the agency agreed to flesh out its appeal process, better explain its denial decisions and start publishing monthly data summaries within 30 days.

Fifty-two days later, the first summary is up:

  • 123,306 applications were denied: No racial or ethnic group appears to have been disproportionately denied compared to the overall applicant pool.
  • 143,391 applications are still pending: For 65%, the state is waiting on more information from the applicant. Another 28% are mid-appeal and only 1% of applicants have had their applications approved but haven’t yet received a check.

Jonathan Jager, an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, said he isn’t surprised a majority of pending applicants didn’t complete their applications.

  • Jager: “It was so hard to interpret the denial notices or the various requests from HCD, so of course people would sit on these tasks.”

Last month’s settlement is meant to simplify the process, but for many renters it may be too late, as the last remaining pandemic-era eviction bans are coming to an end across the state

On Saturday, Oakland’s moratorium came to an end. Renters in Los Angeles have been exempt from eviction over any rental debt accrued between March 2020 and Sept. 30, but that moratorium ends on Aug. 1. And Berkeley’s will end on Aug. 31.

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Rents soared 151%. Under California’s new law, tenants are getting a refund

In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law to shield California renters from double-digit rent hikes and arbitrary evictions.

Nearly four years later, the state announced its first enforcement action against a landlord under the California rent control law.

Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that San Jose-based developer and property manager Green Valley Corporation will be on the hook for hiking the rent on 20 Silicon Valley tenants by an average of 151% — far in excess of the cap set by the law. The settlement also states that the company unlawfully evicted six tenants without providing a “just cause,” another violation.

“When the Legislature writes a law and the governor signs it, it’s the law, it’s not a suggestion, it’s not a recommendation, it’s not a ‘if you want to,’” said Bonta.