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Legislators are prepared to extend California's eviction moratorium to the end of June while offering landlords an incentive to forgive back rent using an extra $2.6 billion the state received from the latest federal relief bill.
Legislators and groups representing landlords and tenants worked on a deal over the weekend, and the bill, SB 91, was introduced Monday morning, which means lawmakers can vote on it Thursday morning.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's office praised the deal as an extension of the "strongest statewide rules in the nation."
"We have more work to do, together, to tackle the structural housing cost crisis in California," Newsom said in a statement. "The pandemic exacerbated these issues, it did not create them."
Despite a federal eviction moratorium that runs until the end of March, legislators were working to preserve the complicated and delicate framework of California's deal, which allowed those who have paid 25% of their rent during the pandemic to avoid eviction and owe the back rent as civil debt.
California's original eviction moratorium ends Jan. 31, and a new deal would need to be in place before then.
Assemblymember David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who wrote the original eviction moratorium that took effect in September, called the proposal "necessary but far from perfect."
"The power imbalance between tenants and landlords is troubling as the amount of rental assistance a tenant receives is determined solely by the cooperation of their landlord," Chiu said in a statement Monday morning. "I expect there will be a need to revisit this legislation to address gaps and provide relief to additional tenants."
The proposed moratorium extension deal also addressed one of the California Apartment Association's major demands: A unified statewide eviction moratorium that preempts any local efforts to establish a longer moratorium.
Using $2.6 billion in federal relief as rental subsidies, the proposal would pay landlords 80% of unpaid back rent incurred between April 2020 and March 2021 if landlords agree to forgive the remaining 20% in back rent and agree not to pursue evictions.
Should landlords not agree to accept the rental relief dollars, the deal instructs courts to reduce damages owed the landlord, assuming the tenant met the eligibility requirements.
Per federal rules, rental assistance is limited to those who make up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The outline obtained Monday suggests that priority for rental relief will go to those earning less than 50% AMI. Area Median Income for a four-person household in Los Angeles County is $77,300. Eighty percent of that is $61,840. The rate is much higher locally. The Area Median Income for a four-person household is $143,100 in San Mateo County and $141,600 in Santa Clara County; 80% of those amounts are $114,480 and $113,280, respectively.
Lawmakers have more work ahead of them in trying to help families recover from the pandemic-induced recession. Last month, Newsom also proposed a Golden State Stimulus of $600 for low-wage Californians in addition to federal relief.
While members of the legislature are still considering the state stimulus as part of an early-action budget package and many have voiced support, legislative staffers speaking on background say it has taken the back burner to more urgent negotiations to extend the eviction moratorium. Neither house has yet held a hearing on the $600 tax credits.
CalMatters reporter Jackie Botts contributed to this report.
This article is part of the California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequality and economic survival in California.