SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal freeze on most evictions enacted last year is scheduled to expire Saturday, after the Biden administration extended the original date by a month. The moratorium, put in place by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent.
Landlords successfully challenged the order in court, arguing they also had bills to pay. They pointed out that tenants could access nearly $47 billion in federal money set aside to help pay rents and related expenses.
Advocates for tenants said the distribution of the money had been slow and that more time was needed to distribute it and repay landlords. Without an extension, they feared a spike in evictions and lawsuits seeking to boot out tenants who were behind on their rents.
Even with the delay, roughly 3.6 million people in the U.S. as of July 5 said they face eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. The survey measures the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic every two weeks through online responses from a representative sample of U.S. households.
Here’s the situation in California:
WHAT’S THE STATUS OF EVICTION MORATORIUMS IN THE STATE?
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on June 28 extending the state's eviction moratorium through Sept. 30. This is the third time the state has extended the moratorium. Newsom has said a fourth extension is unlikely.
WHAT’S BEING DONE TO HELP PEOPLE FACING EVICTION?
California will pay off 100% of eligible tenants' unpaid rent from April 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021. To be eligible, tenants must earn 80% or less of the area median income, an amount that varies depending on where they live. The money — $5.2 billion — comes from the federal government.
So far, nearly 113,000 people have requested more than $1 billion in relief. The state has paid more than $178 million as of July 20.
People who are not eligible to get the money can still qualify for the eviction ban if they pay at least 25% of what they owe by Sept. 30. Landlords could take these tenants to court to recoup that money, but they could not evict them for it.
HOW ARE THE COURTS HANDLING EVICTION HEARINGS?
Tenants are protected from evictions through Sept. 30. After that date, if a landlord tries to evict someone, the tenant will have 14 days to apply for rental assistance. If the tenant refuses to apply or is denied eligibility and has not paid at least 25% of what is owed by Sept. 30, the tenant can be evicted.
California still allows evictions right now for reasons other than unpaid rent, including breaking the lease agreement, damaging the property or using the property to do something illegal.
WHAT IS THE AFFORDABILITY IN THE STATE’S MAJOR RENTAL MARKETS?
California's major population centers, including Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, have some of the most expensive rental prices in the country. In June, the median monthly rent was $2,801 in San Francisco and $2,690 in Los Angeles, according to data from Realtor.com. The prices are driven by a housing shortage in the nation's most populous state, with nearly 40 million residents.
ARE EVICTIONS EXPECTED TO CREATE A SURGE IN HOMELESSNESS?
This is the big fear among housing advocates. California already has the largest homeless population in the country. Combined with a housing shortage and expensive rents, ending eviction protections could put more people on the street. However, the legislative agreement will pay off 100% of unpaid rent through September 2021. Meanwhile, California has ended COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses, and employers say they are having a hard time finding workers.