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.