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Should CA ‘Cancel’ Rent? Stakeholders Discuss Rent Relief Options Amid The Pandemic




Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions in front of the court house amid Coronavirus pandemic on August 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.
Renters and housing advocates attend a protest to cancel rent and avoid evictions in front of the court house amid Coronavirus pandemic on August 21, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.
VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

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COVID-19 has hit low-income renters the hardest. 

In a Jan. 19 report, California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the state’s renters owe $400 million in unpaid rent because of financial hardship tied to the pandemic, down from initial estimates, which were as high as $1.7 billion.

Federal, state and local eviction moratoriums have temporarily staunched the bleeding, but eventually, rent is going to come due -- and without intervention, lead to a wave of evictions and people sliding into homelessness. Eviction cases are projected to double over the next year.

Activists want city, county and state leaders to “cancel rent” – but what does that look like? What kind of support would be most effective? And how would landlords keep making their mortgage payments?

There’s an urgent deadline looming at the end of the week: Currently, the state’s eviction moratorium ends Jan. 31, but new Gov. Newsom and Democratic leaders in the legislature agreed to a proposal, SB 91, to extend the eviction moratorium until June 30 and create a rent subsidy program with 2.6 billion in federal funds. 

Many observers say it falls far short of what’s needed, and leaves tenants’ fates up to their landlords -- but some form of a plan has to be approved ASAP to avoid mass evictions.

We dive into rental debt during the pandemic and options for addressing rent relief. 

With guest host Libby Denkmann

Guests:

Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), state assemblymember representing California’s 45th district, which includes Calabasas, Sherman Oaks and Northridge; he’s a member of the State Assembly’s Committee of Housing and Community Development; he tweets @AsmJesseGabriel

Shanti Singh, communications and legislative director for Tenants Together, a statewide coalition of local tenant organizations for renters’ rights

Debra Carlton, executive vice president of state public affairs for the California Apartment Association, the statewide trade group representing owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of rental homes and apartment communities; she tweets @DebraCarlton8