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SLO community leaders brace for termination of statewide moratorium on evictions

More than $17 million in rent relief
Posted at 10:13 AM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 13:13:27-04

California's Judicial Council could soon remove critical protections for residents who can't afford rent due to COVID-19 related financial woes.

The eviction moratorium put in place back in April could be removed as soon as August 14, a possibility that's drawing concern from Central Coast community leaders.

"People have been out of a job since March, people are at the food bank trying to survive, using every grant and utility help possible," San Luis Obispo Councilwoman Erica Stewart said. "So why would we want to increase the amount of homelessness already out right now."

Stewart and leaders of local community assistance programs are bracing for the potential end to a statewide moratorium on evictions.

"If these benefits aren't extended beyond the end of July and the eviction moratorium is lifted, it's not good for our residents, not good for the most vulnerable in our population," People's Self Help Housing CEO John Fowler said.

Grace has been given to residents unable to pay rent due to COVID-19 related job loss, though they are still on the hook for the past due rent once the moratorium is lifted.

But the California Judicial Council is now considering an end to the moratorium, arguing the temporary emergency order is hardly temporary after four months. The council believes the state legislature needs to produce a more long term solution.

While financially strapped renters have been given a pass, landlords continue to grapple with lost income from penniless tenants.

In Los Angeles, a lawsuit filed by a landlord advocacy group claims the emergency order unfairly affects property owners.

"Depending on their financial situation, that may not work for (landlords)," Stewart said. "(Landlords) may need help just as much as their renter, especially in an area like this if they don't have that rent, they don't eat as well."

It's a delicate balance, one that's forcing community assistance programs like People's Self Help Housing to bear a heavier load.

"The services have escalated as you can imagine because of the pandemic," Fowler said. "People are losing their jobs, being furloughed, struggling to pay rent, but there are resources available locally and at the state level, we just need those resources to continue."

If the state judicial board ceases to continue the moratorium, local jurisdictions may be forced to intervene.

"If we try to extend that moratorium, how does that work without the county support?" Stewart mused. "I think it's really important people are talking to their supervisor and council member in their city because we can't do this alone."