California Governor Gavin Newsom has already said the state will pay off all the past-due rent accumulated by struggling residents because of the fallout from the, a promise to make landlords whole, while giving renters a clean slate. Left unsettled is whether California will continue to ban evictions for its residents' unpaid rent beyond June 30, a pandemic-related order that was meant to be temporary but is proving difficult to undo.
Federal eviction protections also are set to expire on June 30, but California has passed its own protections that applied to more people than had been approved by Congress.
Newsom and legislative leaders are meeting privately this week to decide what to do about evictions. Residents said they're hoping for an extension.
"The expectation for people to be up and at 'em and ready to pay rent on July 1 is wholeheartedly unfair," said Kelli Lloyd, a 43-year-old single mother who hasn't worked consistently since March 2020.
Lloyd is supposed to pay $1,924 a month for her two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, but she's $30,000 behind. That debt will likely be covered by the government, but Lloyd said she's worried she could still be evicted if the protections expire.
"Simply because the state has opened back up doesn't mean people have access to their jobs," she said.
Some housing advocates are asking the state to keep the eviction ban in place until the unemployment rate among low-wage workers has dropped to pre-pandemic levels. It's similar to how state officials would impose restrictions on businesses in counties where COVID-19 infection rates were higher, while those with lower infection rates could reopen more quickly.
Housing advocates said they were encouraged when Newsom told Univision earlier this month that he "definitively" wants to extend the eviction protections beyond June 30.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said Francisco Duenas, executive director of Housing Now California. "We definitely need these protections as part of our recovery."
Millions behind on rent nationwide
Across the nation, some 6 million renter households are still behind on rent and would face eviction, "if the Biden administration allows the federal eviction moratorium to expire before states and localities can distribute aid to households in need," according to U.S. Consensus data cited by the National Low Income Housing Institution.
Meanwhile, another 2 million-plus homeowners are report.and are at risk of being forced out of their homes, according to a recently released Harvard University housing
In Sonoma County, California, property manager Keith Becker said 14 of his tenants are more than $100,000 behind in rent payments. Owing that much puts financial pressure on the owners, who Becker said have "resigned themselves to it."
"We should do our best to get back to the starting point where we were in December of 2019," Becker said. "Anything other than that is taking advantage of a crisis."
California has $5.2 billion to pay off people's rent, money from multiple aid packages approved by Congress. That appears to be more than enough to cover all of the unpaid rent in the state, said Jason Elliott, senior counselor to Newsom on housing and homelessness.
But the state has been slow to distribute that money, and it's unlikely it can spend it all by June 30. A report from the California Department Housing and Community Development showed that of the $490 million in requests for rental assistance through May 31, just $32 million has been paid. That doesn't include the 12 cities and 10 counties that run their own rental assistance programs.