Sonoma Supervisors Set to Discuss Eviction Moratorium on Tuesday

With thousands of residents out of work and increased federal unemployment benefits set to sunset in early July, many are worried state and local eviction moratoriums could result in a wave of evictions in the months after the Covid-19 pandemic is officially declared over, that is.

To that end, at its Tuesday, June 2 meeting, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will revisit a local moratorium on evictions due to lost wages as a result of Covid-19.

A meeting agenda released Friday afternoon states that the board will receive a briefing on “Housing Stability Measures during the COVID-19 Emergency.” The board passed a countywide moratorium in late March with a promise to revisit the issue at its June 2 meeting.

But, months into the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains unclear how—or whether—local, state and federal government agencies will be able to solve the multiple housing crises, affecting renters and mortgage holders, which are currently unfolding.

Of primary concern to tenants is that, under the county and state orders, renters are still required to make up missed rent payments after the pandemic. If they are unable to do so, landlords will be allowed to begin eviction proceedings after the moratorium is lifted.

From the landlords’ side, it still remains unclear how or when landlords will recover payments tenants missed due to Covid-19.

For its part, the California Apartment Association (CAA), a statewide advocacy group for landlords, supports Assembly Bill 1410. The proposed legislation, which is working its way through the state legislature, would create a fund called the Covid-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The state program would pay some landlords 80 percent of missed payments.

In exchange, landlords would need to promise not to charge late fees for missed payments or pursue any remaining missed rent payments left after receiving payments through the state program.

But, as is often the case these days, where the money to pay for such an assistance program would come from—or how much would be offered in total—remains a mystery.

According to the current version of AB 1410, the program would receive funds through the state budget process.

But, with so many hands out for such a severely limited number of dollars, will the state be able to set aside a meaningful amount of money for a rent-relief program?

In April, the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation released a rough estimate of the number of missed rent payments. All told, about 2.3 million renter households in California could be impacted by Covid-related layoffs or other lost income.

Those impacted renter households could miss as much as $3.96 billion per month statewide, according to the Terner analysis.

Although the estimate is likely on the high side since some impacted tenants may be able to pay partial rent, the overall number illustrates the massive scale of the problem.