The Rent Control Board could kick in $10,000 towards efforts to educate Santa Monica tenants and landlords about eviction protections pending discussions at this Thursday’s meeting.
Eviction moratoriums are currently a complicated web of overlapping rules at the local, state and federal level but Santa Monica has proposed a $55,000 plan to inform everyone of the resources available to keep people housed and pay necessary bills.
After a federal eviction moratorium was allowed to lapse recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new moratorium at the federal level on evictions that would last until Oct. 3.
The new moratorium aims to keep millions in their homes and like all anti-eviction efforts passed during the pandemic, seeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The order cites the fact that there are lower vaccination rates in areas most at risk for eviction. The moratorium also give states additional time to get out nearly $47 billion in rental assistance, most of which has yet to be distributed to tenants and landlords.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of California has in place its own tenant protections through a law called the COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act. The protections provided under the Act are in addition to protections that have been provided by other federal, state, and local landlord-tenant laws, including the partial eviction moratorium that was issued by the CDC.
In Santa Monica, the city has also passed hyper-local rules that in addition to eviction protections for nonpayment of rent, extended prohibitions on no-fault termination of tenancy or occupancy (except for a limited exception for owner-occupancy evictions in single-family homes), unauthorized occupants/unauthorized pets and nuisance until September 30.
“Housing is a human right. And while we have a long way to go to make available and affordable housing a reliable reality in California, we do have some important protections for those who have been impacted by the financial repercussions of COVID-19,” said California Attorney General Bonta on Tuesday. “Know your rights, and take advantage of the resources that California has made available for you.”
City Hall has proposed a plan to educate local renters and property owners about their share of the federal aid.
“The Rent Control Agency and City staff are coordinating an outreach program to educate the Santa Monica community about California’s rental assistance program, which has more than $7 billion in federal funds available to help landlords and tenants impacted by COVID-19,” said the RCB staff report. “Along with the statewide eviction moratorium, the rental assistance program is designed to keep families housed, shield tenants from eviction, and help both landlords and tenants recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. The statewide “CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Program” (commonly referred to as “Housing is Key”) is available to help income-eligible households with 100 percent of unpaid rent and utilities, for both past and future amounts owed.”
According to the Housing is Key website, only $243 million has been distributed to about 132,076 applications by the first week of August.
Santa Monica households have filed 1,250 applications requesting $20,327,062 in funds so far. According to officials, 458 households had been served with $7,535,516 in paid assistance, averaging $16,453 per household.
Santa Monica has proposed a $55,000 plan to increase awareness of the aid available.
The plan calls for postcards to be mailed to every household in Santa Monica (approximately 55,000) in four languages, follow-up postcards mailed to residents of approximately 27,000 rent controlled units and 4,000 property owners (at 2,000 mailing addresses), door hangers distributed to specific groups – mainly long-term rent controlled tenants (approximately 7,000) and residential buildings in specific areas, postcards to be distributed to clients of the Disability Community Resource Center (DCRC), Meals on Wheels, and other potentially vulnerable communities, information at targeted businesses and institutions (for example: food banks, grocery stores, laundromats, gas stations/convenience stores, thrift stores, banks/cash checking stores, places of worship, parks, community centers, libraries, and clinics), media outreach, and information given to community organizations.
“Given the availability of the federally financed rental relief funds, the extreme urgency of keeping tenants housed, and the desire to ensure landlords are made whole for unpaid rent and utilities, staff recommends that the Rent Control Board authorize an expenditure of up to $10,000 as the Agency’s financial contribution to the outreach program,” said the staff report. “This effort is potentially a win-win for landlords and tenants and will allow City funds to be leveraged for a broad campaign reaching property owners and tenants of rent-controlled units, some multiple times. A contribution of this amount will ensure planned efforts are sufficiently funded.”
RCB will meet virtually on Thursday, August 12 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be available on the City’s website. Additional information about the rental aid can be found at www.smgov.net or https://housing.ca.gov/.