California’s $5.2 billion pandemic rental relief fund is running out of money even as the pandemic deepens economic turmoil and tenant protections expire in March.
Housing advocates have seen a steady demand in recent months for assistance to protect people from displacement or eviction. The state requested an additional $1.9 billion from the federal emergency rental assistance program to cover landlord and tenant debts, but last week received just $62 million in additional funds.
Aid requests from tenants and landlords have now hit $6.9 billion, according to state data. Officials say some of those requests will be ineligible or are duplicate applications that will be denied.
“It’s premature in this moment to know if we are over-subscribed,” said Geoffrey Ross, deputy director of the state department of housing and community development, “because we don’t know how much more funding we will receive.”
State officials estimate they need an additional $2.5 billion to cover upcoming demand. The federal government is expected to redistribute additional, unused funds this spring. But California’s tenant protections end in March, allowing landlords to resume evictions for nonpayment in most cities.
Housing and landlord advocates say the ever-lengthening pandemic has strained a system launched in March to stem evictions and keep families housed during the health crisis.
“California will need significantly more funding from future federal reallocations in order to continue to meet the needs of low-income California renters impacted by COVID-19,” said Lourdes Castro Ramirez, the state’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency secretary. The state will continue to focus relief toward the lowest income families and tenants facing displacement, she said.
Tenants and landlords apply to state and local programs, and eligible, low-income renters can have up to 100% of their back rent paid to their landlord. Some may also qualify for payment of future rent. The state estimates the various programs have helped nearly 250,000 families and distributed about $2.5 billion to landlords.
The slow pace of payments has been an issue for the program since its inception. After March 31, landlords will again be allowed to evict tenants for nonpayment in most cities, increasing pressure to make aid payments. Housing advocates are worried and landlords are restless.
“We are very concerned,” said Debra Carlton, executive vice president of the California Apartment Association. “Millions of dollars have gone unpaid to tenants and owners. Many owners have received no rent for months. They cannot pay their taxes, mortgages and other expenses if the rent continues to go unpaid.”
Aid programs saw a surge of requests in October when some protections ended for tenants who did not apply for aid. Advocates say although the rapid spread of the omicron variant has not yet produced a spike of increased need, they expect it will as economic upheaval continues for many low-wage and frontline workers.
The state’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland ran their own programs with federal funds.
Here’s how to apply for rent assistance in Southern California:
Renters and landlords of these cities and counties can apply only through the state’s portal: HousingIsKey.com or by calling the state’s toll-free hotline (833-430-2122):
- Los Angeles County (outside the city of Long Beach)
- Orange County (outside the cities of Santa Ana and Anaheim)
- Los Angeles (starting on Sept. 1)
- Santa Clarita
Renters and landlords in these cities and counties can apply to both their local programs and the state portal, but must apply to their local programs first:
- Riverside County: unitedlift.org
- San Bernardino County: Outside the cities of San Bernardino and Fontana: sbcrentrelief.org
- Santa Ana: www.santa-ana.org/cares-for-tenants
- San Bernardino: sbcityrent.com
Renters and landlords in these cities must apply to their local program:
- Long Beach: www.longbeach.gov/rentalassistance.
- Anaheim: Anaheim.net/rentassistance or call 714-765-4300, ext. 4890.
Source: Orange County Register