Lower-income renters the focus starting Oct. 1
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Californians challenged with paying their rent and facing eviction have until the end of Thursday (Sept. 30) before the state moves to a new — and more focused — eviction-protection and rent relief program.
But a majority of renters, especially low-income households, can continue receiving assistance and avoid eviction by applying for the new rent relief program that starts Friday (Oct. 1), state officials said this week.
State lawmakers approved Covid legislation that protects low-income tenants from eviction as long as they have paid — 25% of their rent by Thursday.
A new program that pays all back and future rent for low-income tenants, considered households that earn 80% or less of the area median income, starts Friday (Oct. 1). And landlords cannot evict tenants that have completed the rental assistance application through March 2022.
$650 million in rent relief issued to 55,000 renters
The California Covid-19 Rent Relief Program has been protecting residents from eviction — and often helping with back and future rent payments — during much of the pandemic. Many landlords, who have not been able to evict tenants during the pandemic, have also benefited from the program. However, some landlords have criticized the slow response and payment process.
“The Covid-19 pandemic left many families without the income needed to cover their rent and stay in their homes,” says Lourdes Castro Ramirez, Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. “And too many tenants have lived with the fear of eviction. We have moved quickly to disburse help to renters and landlords.”
But Covid, and its challenges, are far from over.
Millions of Californians, especially those in service-sector jobs, had their hours and income cut or lost their jobs during the pandemic. And even though the economy has improved — thanks in part to fewer Covid cases with more residents getting vaccinated — many renters are still struggling. Plus, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act and the $300 added every week to unemployment checks ended Sept. 4, making eviction protection and rent relief critical for many renters.
The state has issued about $650 million to 55,000 renters — or about 25% of the $5.2 billion available under Covid relief funds. In addition, numerous housing agencies have access to the dollars and are working with the state to distribute the money to help renters.
Many landlords, some housing officials and even a few state lawmakers have criticized the state for its slower-than-expected distribution of the funds. However, the state has done a much better job approving applications and distributing funds during the past three months.
Estimated 724,000 renters behind on rent
The state and county-issued dollars have allowed many hard-hit Californians to remain in their apartments and rented homes. But many continue to struggle. About 724,000 California households owed an average of $3,400 in back rent in August, according to PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute.
Under the new rent relief program, low-income renters who have applied for rental assistance will continue to be protected from eviction through March 2022. But they need to apply right away.
“Tenants who owe back rent or who will have trouble paying rent on the first of the month should not wait to apply for rent relief,” said California Department of Housing and Community Development Department Director Gustavo Velasquez. “The sooner they apply for rent relief, the sooner they will be protected from eviction for non-payment of rent.”
Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis until funds are exhausted. Application information is private and not shared between renters and landlords, and renters are not asked about their immigration status or required to provide proof of citizenship.
For more information and to apply for the rent relief program, visit HousingIsKey.com or call the Covid-19 Rent Relief Call Center at 833-430-1212 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.
Longtime business journalist-turned-communications executive who enjoys reporting on residential real estate in his spare time.