News

Guest opinion: Protect families from homelessness. Extend the eviction moratorium.

A woman walks through The Americana apartment complex on Aug. 21, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

I live and work in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places to live in the country. According to Zillow, the average price of a home is $1.3 million.

But buried deep in this large swath of land, known for its dynamism and innovation, is East Palo Alto, a working-class Latino community where my extended family still lives.

During a pandemic where giant tech corporations saw record-breaking profits, people in my community saw record-breaking panic. High transmission rates of COVID-19 among the Latino community came because of factors like preexisting health conditions, type of employment and overcrowded housing.

As someone who grew up in a multigenerational working-class household, the scene playing out in East Palo Alto and other Latino Silicon Valley neighborhoods is one I understand. Families in these households were faced with the most challenging decision this past year — stay home to avoid exposure to the virus or lose the paycheck that helps pay the nearly unaffordable rent.

Right now, California has protective legislation in place that prohibits eviction and foreclosure for nonpayment of rent or mortgage during the COVID-19 period. It also eliminates debt for tenants who were unable to pay rent during the pandemic. Finally, it compensates small landlords and nonprofit housing operators who need assistance to ensure housing stability for their tenants.

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Although California has these protections in place, saving millions of Californians from losing homes by protecting tenants from evictions due to missed rent, this protection ends in June. Hope is on the horizon with vaccination rates ticking up, but the financial impact of COVID-19 rages on.

This problem is echoed across the state as Californians have lost more jobs during COVID-19 than during the Great Recession, and unemployment is higher among Californians of color.

The urgency to extend eviction protections could not come at a more crucial time, especially since many of the people I serve at Nuestra Casa, a local nonprofit serving the Latino community in Silicon Valley, have lost jobs and have no income. Rent debt is growing at a staggering rate.

Unfortunately, this crisis requires systemic, longer-term interventions. At a minimum, California must extend the moratorium past June for people still impacted by the pandemic. Many people will not be able to return to work by then.

At a local level, thousands in San Mateo County receive support from robust rental assistance programs. But the scale of this problem is beyond those programs' scope, and these resources are quickly exhausted. The application process is also complicated, especially for residents with limited time and English proficiency.

One step in the right direction is the California Legislature's approval of Senate Bill 91. SB 91 authorizes the use of $2.6 billion in federal funds to pay landlords rent owed by qualifying tenants with COVID-19 financial hardships. Some of these funds will also go to organizations with deep roots in communities, like Nuestra Casa, to help tenants complete complicated rental assistance applications.

By extending the moratorium, we can ensure that rental assistance money achieves its intended purpose, preventing homelessness and getting money into the pockets of landlords who need it.

As a next step to address what was already a severe housing crisis before COVID-19, why not apply the same approach to keeping people housed during the pandemic? California can be a leader in a model that prioritizes getting the rent paid, preventing evictions and reducing homelessness, rather than prioritizing speedy evictions where landlords do not get the rent money owed.

If we don't continue these interventions, vulnerable families living in Silicon Valley will be pushed out for good. They will be forced to choose between food or housing. Evictions will also increase the spread of COVID-19 and other health conditions, further harming all of us.

California can do the right thing. It can choose to look away and let this problem fester in our communities. Or it can choose people like my family and my neighbors — renters, homeowners, small landlords and essential workers.

Because in the Golden State, the fifth-largest economy in the world, everyone deserves a place to call home.

Miriam Yupanqui is the executive director of Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected] This piece was first published by CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture that works with media partners throughout the state, including The Almanac.

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Guest opinion: Protect families from homelessness. Extend the eviction moratorium.

by / CalMatters

Uploaded: Sun, May 9, 2021, 8:52 am

I live and work in Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive places to live in the country. According to Zillow, the average price of a home is $1.3 million.

But buried deep in this large swath of land, known for its dynamism and innovation, is East Palo Alto, a working-class Latino community where my extended family still lives.

During a pandemic where giant tech corporations saw record-breaking profits, people in my community saw record-breaking panic. High transmission rates of COVID-19 among the Latino community came because of factors like preexisting health conditions, type of employment and overcrowded housing.

As someone who grew up in a multigenerational working-class household, the scene playing out in East Palo Alto and other Latino Silicon Valley neighborhoods is one I understand. Families in these households were faced with the most challenging decision this past year — stay home to avoid exposure to the virus or lose the paycheck that helps pay the nearly unaffordable rent.

Right now, California has protective legislation in place that prohibits eviction and foreclosure for nonpayment of rent or mortgage during the COVID-19 period. It also eliminates debt for tenants who were unable to pay rent during the pandemic. Finally, it compensates small landlords and nonprofit housing operators who need assistance to ensure housing stability for their tenants.

Although California has these protections in place, saving millions of Californians from losing homes by protecting tenants from evictions due to missed rent, this protection ends in June. Hope is on the horizon with vaccination rates ticking up, but the financial impact of COVID-19 rages on.

This problem is echoed across the state as Californians have lost more jobs during COVID-19 than during the Great Recession, and unemployment is higher among Californians of color.

The urgency to extend eviction protections could not come at a more crucial time, especially since many of the people I serve at Nuestra Casa, a local nonprofit serving the Latino community in Silicon Valley, have lost jobs and have no income. Rent debt is growing at a staggering rate.

Unfortunately, this crisis requires systemic, longer-term interventions. At a minimum, California must extend the moratorium past June for people still impacted by the pandemic. Many people will not be able to return to work by then.

At a local level, thousands in San Mateo County receive support from robust rental assistance programs. But the scale of this problem is beyond those programs' scope, and these resources are quickly exhausted. The application process is also complicated, especially for residents with limited time and English proficiency.

One step in the right direction is the California Legislature's approval of Senate Bill 91. SB 91 authorizes the use of $2.6 billion in federal funds to pay landlords rent owed by qualifying tenants with COVID-19 financial hardships. Some of these funds will also go to organizations with deep roots in communities, like Nuestra Casa, to help tenants complete complicated rental assistance applications.

By extending the moratorium, we can ensure that rental assistance money achieves its intended purpose, preventing homelessness and getting money into the pockets of landlords who need it.

As a next step to address what was already a severe housing crisis before COVID-19, why not apply the same approach to keeping people housed during the pandemic? California can be a leader in a model that prioritizes getting the rent paid, preventing evictions and reducing homelessness, rather than prioritizing speedy evictions where landlords do not get the rent money owed.

If we don't continue these interventions, vulnerable families living in Silicon Valley will be pushed out for good. They will be forced to choose between food or housing. Evictions will also increase the spread of COVID-19 and other health conditions, further harming all of us.

California can do the right thing. It can choose to look away and let this problem fester in our communities. Or it can choose people like my family and my neighbors — renters, homeowners, small landlords and essential workers.

Because in the Golden State, the fifth-largest economy in the world, everyone deserves a place to call home.

Miriam Yupanqui is the executive director of Nuestra Casa de East Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected] This piece was first published by CalMatters, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture that works with media partners throughout the state, including The Almanac.

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 9, 2021 at 10:11 am
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on May 9, 2021 at 10:11 am

Every working adult who wants a vaccine can easily get one now. The pandemic emergency is over or at the very least near its end. Why should California continue to interfere in the contractual arrangements between tenants and landlords by making it difficult or impossible to evict non-paying tenants?

This meddling will have unfortunate consequences for the rental market by making it even more unattractive than it already was to be a landlord.


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on May 9, 2021 at 8:55 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on May 9, 2021 at 8:55 pm

While there may be a necessity to protect some people from eviction for a little longer (A few more months at most) there needs to be some consideration for landlords. Not all of them are corporations, some are adults that live off the rent they make from their property and they are suffering when their tenants are not paying rent. I am for eliminating the eviction restrictions and having in place a faster system that tenants can use to appeal an eviction and get a temporary (3 month) stay.


Atherton Resident
Registered user
Atherton: other
on May 10, 2021 at 2:00 pm
Atherton Resident, Atherton: other
Registered user
on May 10, 2021 at 2:00 pm

This "temporary" rent relief has gone on for over a year. Time to let it expire.


Karen Grove
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 11, 2021 at 7:41 pm
Karen Grove, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on May 11, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Thank you, Miriam, for this excellent opinion and call to action. Extending the moratorium is good for tenants and landlords! It gives tenants and landlords time to draw upon the $2.9 billion in federal funds to recoup most of the losses of the last year. Landlords are asked to forgive 20% of back-rent, and in return, the federal funds guarantee they receive the remaining 80% of which the tenant pays a portion. Landlords get far more financial compensation by utilizing this assistance than through eviction. From a humanitarian point of view, extending the eviction moratorium protects our communities from the loss of neighbors, friends, family. Tenants who are most at risk of eviction and subsequent likely homelessness are disproportionately single head of household women of color with children! They are also the essential workers such as health care support staff, home health workers, childcare providers who have been risking their health and homes to support a functioning society. Now society must support them.


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on May 12, 2021 at 10:10 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on May 12, 2021 at 10:10 am

Karen Grove -

I'm fine with everything you say... provided that those landlords you ask to accept 80% of back rent, are able to get that same "80% deal" on THEIR property taxes, water bills, sewer and trash pick up, and, of course, their mortgage payments.

These landlords - often retired Moms and Pops who have rented out a former residence and depend on that rent for their survival - still have to pay 100% of their expenses.

Where's THEIR 80% deal?


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