With Eviction Moratorium About to Expire, Tenants Ask for Relief

The statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire in 20 days, putting more than one million Californians at risk of losing their homes. Susie Steimle reports. (6-10-21)

Video Transcript

- Now our original series, Project Home.

- The statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire in 20 days, putting more than a million Californians at risk of losing their homes.

- And tonight, KPIX 5's Susie Steimle talked to some tenants who are begging the governor for an extension. Susie?

SUSIE STEIMLE: And Ken, they are begging the governor and the state assembly to expand AB 91. And that, as you know, is the law that directs federal stimulus funding-- funding to pay back 80% of unpaid rent from COVID-19. And these tenants are saying that money is not getting into the right hands.

VANESSA BULNES: We're all going through the same thing. Sleepless nights, you know, getting those notices on the door.

SUSIE STEIMLE: Vanessa Bulnes's landlord already threatened to evict her once, after she lost her job and couldn't pay rent in March of this year. Since then, she's applied for state rent relief, but hasn't seen a dime.

VANESSA BULNES: It's like waiting for the rain to come, and it's not coming. There's no rain, there's no funding, and I put my application in on March 24th.

SUSIE STEIMLE: Tenants like Vanessa are protected against eviction. But in 20 days, the statewide moratorium lifts.

JACKIE ZANERI: But there is rent assistance money out there. We just need to make sure that it gets where it is supposed to go.

SUSIE STEIMLE: Jackie Zaneri is a staff attorney with ACE. She says getting tenants rent relief has been a bureaucratic mess, coupled with serious equity issues. Some tenants she works with don't even have a computer, and many don't speak English.

JACKIE ZANERI: While tenants are waiting, those protections that are supposed to help them until they get the money are starting to expire.

SUSIE STEIMLE: According to the National Equity Atlas, California's estimated rent debt is $4.2 billion. 911,000 households are behind on rent. 78% of renters in debt are low-income, and 76% are people of color.

SID LAKIREDDY: You should be allowed to go to court to get redress. I mean, that's what sort of governs our civilization.

SUSIE STEIMLE: Sid Lakireddy is the president of the California Rental Housing Association. He says he's willing to wait for tenants who can prove they've applied for assistance, but says he has other tenants refusing to pay and abusing the moratorium. He says at some point, the housing business needs to be able to reopen too.

SID LAKIREDDY: No other industry has been asked to carry the burden we have been asked, and to continue to ask us to do this after we've done it so long, I believe, is wrong.

- Now Susie, Vanessa lives in Oakland. Doesn't that city have its own local protections in place to protect her?

SUSIE STEIMLE: Yes, it does, Liz. But those protections in Oakland only last through the end of the state of the emergency. So it's a little bit more ambiguous. And that makes some of those tenants nervous because they don't really know when the end of the state of emergency is. We know June 15th is the reopening, but the state of emergency is a bit ambiguous, so they're worried about a ripple effect. If the state protections lift, what could be next?

- Right. Right. Well, a lot of uncertainty right now. All right, Susie. Thank you.