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Anxiety mounts over an eviction 'time bomb' in Santa Clara County

Many tenants in Santa Clara County could soon face eviction after COVID-19 protections end, according to a new report. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Santa Clara County could soon face an unprecedented wave of evictions that threatens to displace tens of thousands of residents and more than triple the homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a sobering report released last month.

The grim predictions, detailed in a report by Working Partnerships USA and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, found that the region could be poised for mass displacement as soon as next month. A premature end to a moratorium on evictions, coupled with the loss of federal unemployment benefits, could be just enough to force people out of their homes when rent becomes due.

The double whammy puts an estimated 43,490 renter households in Santa Clara County at high risk of eviction, threatening to skyrocket the county's homeless population by as much as 225%.

"This impossible situation is the impending eviction time-bomb," according to the report. "When the back rent comes due, landlords ... could kick thousands of families out of their homes. Unless policymakers take action, we're facing a scenario of crushing debt, mass evictions, and a surge in homelessness."

But the problem is hardly inevitable. The report notes that a combination of robust landlord-tenant mediation, renter relief funds and an extended ban on evictions could help stave off evictions related to COVID-19. And early evidence shows that some communities, particularly Mountain View, may already be on pace to keep most of its vulnerable residents housed through the pandemic.

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A prolonged pandemic

Since March, Santa Clara County has had a moratorium on evictions preventing landlords from ousting tenants due to nonpayment of rent, provided those tenants can show proof that they lost income or racked up medical bills due to COVID-19. The protections have always been short-term fixes that have been continuously renewed as the pandemic stretched deep into the summer. Right now the moratorium is set to expire on Aug. 31, which county supervisors could extend into September.

The moratorium was seen as a necessary safeguard after more than a million California workers, including 200,000 in Santa Clara County, filed new claims for unemployment benefits between March and May of this year. Many were pushed out of work by public health restrictions that banned most nonessential and indoor activities.

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising in Santa Clara County and many businesses still partially or fully shut down, the report by Working Partnerships flags the need to keep the moratorium in place for as long as the crisis continues. State legislation proposed by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would do just that -- AB 1436 would prohibit renters from being evicted for not paying rent until 90 days after the state's COVID-19 emergency declaration, or April 1, 2021, whichever comes sooner.

Barring an extension, however, the full September rent will be due for all county residents, and that has nonprofits scrambling to prepare for a crush of tenants receiving three-day notices to pay or quit. Project Sentinel, which provides landlord-tenant mediation for eight county cities, including Mountain View and Palo Alto, has been gearing up for a flood of calls from both sides.

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"We anticipate getting a lot more inquiries from tenants who can't make full rent and landlords itching to get back what's owed," said Emily Hislop, a program manager for Project Sentinel.

The constant uncertainty over if and when the moratorium will be extended has made it difficult to plan ahead, however, complicated further by a tapestry of state and local emergency protections against eviction that each have their own expiration date. Knowing what the future holds for tenants meant tuning in to Gov. Gavin Newsom's daily press conferences hoping for some kind of update.

"The people who are going to be the most adversely affected are those who are the most vulnerable."

-Tom Myers, Community Services Agency executive director

"I would have the radio on at noon every day because the moratorium was supposed to end," Hislop said. "It just keeps happening down to the wire, and the landscape just keeps changing. When they pass something it's a sigh of relief, like we finally have certainty for the next month or two."

But is a massive wave of evictions coming once the moratorium expires? Hislop said she isn't so sure, at least not right away. Evictions don't happen overnight and must go through the lengthy court process, she said, and county courts have been both understaffed and difficult to access during the pandemic. Right now there is only one unlawful detainer judge for all of Santa Clara County.

There is also a state court order issued by the California Judicial Council blocking most evictions, which was adopted in April and remains in effect today.

Meanwhile, Hislop said she and others at Project Sentinel have been trying to get the word out that there are alternatives to jumping straight to eviction, and that landlords and tenants can work out a repayment plan through mediation. Getting both sides together at the same table for dispute resolution will be critical to avoid tenants losing their homes when the moratorium inevitably ends, she said.

"If a landlord thinks the only recourse is to go to court, they'll go to court. But if the county makes clear there are resolutions and landlords are aware of the laws, I think that can help make the problem manageable," Hislop said. "If not, I think there will be a flood of eviction notices."

Renter relief paying off

While the moratorium may be keeping people housed for now, worries are already swirling that families could be hopelessly behind on back rent. The Working Partnerships report estimated that many households, already paying a premium on rent, may be in arrears by as much as $7,000 this month.

But the problem may not extend to every city in the county. Mountain View residents, for the most part, appear to be keeping up with rental payments through the pandemic, Hislop said, in part because of a well-resourced rent relief program funded through the city.

In May, the city of Mountain View dumped a grand total of $2.6 million into a rent relief fund for tenants out of work due to COVID-19, either due to illness or loss of employment -- an amount surpassing nearly every city and county in the Bay Area. And by the latest tally, it appears to be helping thousands of residents stay housed.

As of last week, about 850 households received a check to pay for one month's rent, while 325 households have received an additional check to pay for a second month's rent, according to Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA), which runs the rent relief program. Another roughly 600 households are still in the pipeline to receive rental assistance, he said, with each check currently averaging $2,190.

Though the program is open to households making up to 120% of the area median income (AMI), or about $153,000 for a family of four, the majority of the people receiving the funds are the neediest residents. About 55% of the recipients make less than $40,000 a year.

Even with the huge contribution from the city, Myers said CSA "shook the trees and beat the bushes" to raise an extra $1.2 million, bolstering the rent relief fund to $3.8 million to keep it from running dry. And even with the padded budget, he said it's likely the program will run out of money before the end of the eviction moratorium, at which point he'll have to come back to the city and other funders for more cash.

"We have to be prepared for the fact that the COVID-19 crisis is not ending," Myers said. "This is a nightmare that will continue to haunt our communities for a long time, and the people who are going to be the most adversely affected are those who are the most vulnerable."

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Anxiety mounts over an eviction 'time bomb' in Santa Clara County

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 7, 2020, 4:06 pm

Santa Clara County could soon face an unprecedented wave of evictions that threatens to displace tens of thousands of residents and more than triple the homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a sobering report released last month.

The grim predictions, detailed in a report by Working Partnerships USA and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, found that the region could be poised for mass displacement as soon as next month. A premature end to a moratorium on evictions, coupled with the loss of federal unemployment benefits, could be just enough to force people out of their homes when rent becomes due.

The double whammy puts an estimated 43,490 renter households in Santa Clara County at high risk of eviction, threatening to skyrocket the county's homeless population by as much as 225%.

"This impossible situation is the impending eviction time-bomb," according to the report. "When the back rent comes due, landlords ... could kick thousands of families out of their homes. Unless policymakers take action, we're facing a scenario of crushing debt, mass evictions, and a surge in homelessness."

But the problem is hardly inevitable. The report notes that a combination of robust landlord-tenant mediation, renter relief funds and an extended ban on evictions could help stave off evictions related to COVID-19. And early evidence shows that some communities, particularly Mountain View, may already be on pace to keep most of its vulnerable residents housed through the pandemic.

A prolonged pandemic

Since March, Santa Clara County has had a moratorium on evictions preventing landlords from ousting tenants due to nonpayment of rent, provided those tenants can show proof that they lost income or racked up medical bills due to COVID-19. The protections have always been short-term fixes that have been continuously renewed as the pandemic stretched deep into the summer. Right now the moratorium is set to expire on Aug. 31, which county supervisors could extend into September.

The moratorium was seen as a necessary safeguard after more than a million California workers, including 200,000 in Santa Clara County, filed new claims for unemployment benefits between March and May of this year. Many were pushed out of work by public health restrictions that banned most nonessential and indoor activities.

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising in Santa Clara County and many businesses still partially or fully shut down, the report by Working Partnerships flags the need to keep the moratorium in place for as long as the crisis continues. State legislation proposed by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would do just that -- AB 1436 would prohibit renters from being evicted for not paying rent until 90 days after the state's COVID-19 emergency declaration, or April 1, 2021, whichever comes sooner.

Barring an extension, however, the full September rent will be due for all county residents, and that has nonprofits scrambling to prepare for a crush of tenants receiving three-day notices to pay or quit. Project Sentinel, which provides landlord-tenant mediation for eight county cities, including Mountain View and Palo Alto, has been gearing up for a flood of calls from both sides.

"We anticipate getting a lot more inquiries from tenants who can't make full rent and landlords itching to get back what's owed," said Emily Hislop, a program manager for Project Sentinel.

The constant uncertainty over if and when the moratorium will be extended has made it difficult to plan ahead, however, complicated further by a tapestry of state and local emergency protections against eviction that each have their own expiration date. Knowing what the future holds for tenants meant tuning in to Gov. Gavin Newsom's daily press conferences hoping for some kind of update.

"I would have the radio on at noon every day because the moratorium was supposed to end," Hislop said. "It just keeps happening down to the wire, and the landscape just keeps changing. When they pass something it's a sigh of relief, like we finally have certainty for the next month or two."

But is a massive wave of evictions coming once the moratorium expires? Hislop said she isn't so sure, at least not right away. Evictions don't happen overnight and must go through the lengthy court process, she said, and county courts have been both understaffed and difficult to access during the pandemic. Right now there is only one unlawful detainer judge for all of Santa Clara County.

There is also a state court order issued by the California Judicial Council blocking most evictions, which was adopted in April and remains in effect today.

Meanwhile, Hislop said she and others at Project Sentinel have been trying to get the word out that there are alternatives to jumping straight to eviction, and that landlords and tenants can work out a repayment plan through mediation. Getting both sides together at the same table for dispute resolution will be critical to avoid tenants losing their homes when the moratorium inevitably ends, she said.

"If a landlord thinks the only recourse is to go to court, they'll go to court. But if the county makes clear there are resolutions and landlords are aware of the laws, I think that can help make the problem manageable," Hislop said. "If not, I think there will be a flood of eviction notices."

Renter relief paying off

While the moratorium may be keeping people housed for now, worries are already swirling that families could be hopelessly behind on back rent. The Working Partnerships report estimated that many households, already paying a premium on rent, may be in arrears by as much as $7,000 this month.

But the problem may not extend to every city in the county. Mountain View residents, for the most part, appear to be keeping up with rental payments through the pandemic, Hislop said, in part because of a well-resourced rent relief program funded through the city.

In May, the city of Mountain View dumped a grand total of $2.6 million into a rent relief fund for tenants out of work due to COVID-19, either due to illness or loss of employment -- an amount surpassing nearly every city and county in the Bay Area. And by the latest tally, it appears to be helping thousands of residents stay housed.

As of last week, about 850 households received a check to pay for one month's rent, while 325 households have received an additional check to pay for a second month's rent, according to Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA), which runs the rent relief program. Another roughly 600 households are still in the pipeline to receive rental assistance, he said, with each check currently averaging $2,190.

Though the program is open to households making up to 120% of the area median income (AMI), or about $153,000 for a family of four, the majority of the people receiving the funds are the neediest residents. About 55% of the recipients make less than $40,000 a year.

Even with the huge contribution from the city, Myers said CSA "shook the trees and beat the bushes" to raise an extra $1.2 million, bolstering the rent relief fund to $3.8 million to keep it from running dry. And even with the padded budget, he said it's likely the program will run out of money before the end of the eviction moratorium, at which point he'll have to come back to the city and other funders for more cash.

"We have to be prepared for the fact that the COVID-19 crisis is not ending," Myers said. "This is a nightmare that will continue to haunt our communities for a long time, and the people who are going to be the most adversely affected are those who are the most vulnerable."

Comments

Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:10 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:10 pm
8 people like this

Evictions are BLOCKED by the judicial council emergency rule (No. 1) linked in the article. Except in rare cases where a judge orders it, no summons will issue on an unlawful detainer complaint until 90 days after the Governor's declaration that the Covid-19 emergency is over. I have explained in prior posts on Voice article what that means. It appears some "non-profit corporations" are just looking for more money.


Kevin Forestieri
Registered user
Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
on Aug 8, 2020 at 7:18 am
Kevin Forestieri, Mountain View Voice Staff Writer
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 7:18 am
1 person likes this

@Gary

Those rules could be rescinded as soon as next week.

Web Link


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 8, 2020 at 11:14 am
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 11:14 am
1 person likes this

Yes,

SOMEONE is going to have to extend this moratorium perhaps at least till the end of the year.

Even Donald Trump is saying he will issue an executive order for this. Thus there is no reason why we don't do it already.

Whether it is by Governor Executive Order, The Legislature passing it, the County Supervisors passing it, the Courts passing it, or the Cities passing it, this is going to be necessary given that unemployment insurance does not cover rent costs, and it is likely that that is not getting any fix.

You cannot even use the EDD Telecert to get you benefits, The service is down, and the postal services is slowing down. only 5% of people trying to call the EDD get through.

The GRIMM reality is that this second wave of COVID destruction will either hit us, or someone is going to have to put a stop to it.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 8, 2020 at 12:25 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 12:25 pm
6 people like this

The reporter has now posted a link to the Chief Justice of the CA Supreme Court's statement on July 24 that the emergency rules blocking evictions could be "rescinded" by vote of the Judicial Council - perhaps effective August 14. Good information that should have been in the article. But the Chief Justice is one of 21 voting members of the Judicial Council. So. Fine. We shall see. Handing money to a non-profit corporation to dole out some of the money for a few dozen - or even a hundred - rent payments will not help much. The reporter might try to look into what percentage of MV renters are behind in rent payments and what percentage are now unemployed.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 8, 2020 at 2:56 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 2:56 pm
2 people like this

Well,

Now that Trump is extending the eviction moratorium by executive order, there is good cause to do the same in California.

To me it is simply a no brainer, but I know it is going to put landlords in a ugly position.

BUT, many of them gambled on the rental business and in my case my landlord overpaid for the property I live in. He spent $5M on a property whose last appraisal was $1.15M. My property has problems now with our patio/balconies with cracks and bowing floor boards, and our windows need serious work to deal with insulation and I know of one window that has a broken part that needs a knife or screwdriver to open it.

These people knew the risks but then try to blame the government and the tenants for their mistakes. Sorry, if you didn't have the ability to swallow the losses, maybe you should not have signed the contracts for purchase?

But they will try to go to court to block eviction moratoriums, but many lawyers say it will not work you can see this report "Calif. Judge Backs San Francisco Evictions Moratorium" (Web Link).

Another hint is from the story "U.S. District Court Upholds Constitutionality of New York Moratorium on Evictions" found here (Web Link)

As long as there is a means for back rent to be repaid is provided either by the state, county or city is provided, this situation is not unconstitutional. Thus these landlords better get ready to feel a greater level of stress.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 8, 2020 at 4:07 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 4:07 pm
7 people like this

President Trump's eviction moratorium is for federally subsidized units only. And as an executive order, it can be HERE TODAY AND GONE TOMMORROW.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 7:01 pm
Like this comment

Gary,

Any legitimate landlord or property owner is using a federally insured mortgage. And if they are not federally insured, they better be appropriately insured none the less. If they are not, then they left themselves completely defenseless regarding this situation. Any purchase of land or a building without sufficient insurance is just a disaster waiting to happen. And you know it.

What your describing is the likelihood of landlords involved with some other kind of CREATIVE financing, the most notorious is money laundering. Those are the ones that are at highest risk. They probably CANNOT buy any appropriate insurance regarding their purchase. Most likely it is just a shell insurance with loopholes so big that they never can collect any benefits. And you know this too.

Gary, if you are saying that Donald Trump will revoke his executive order under these circumstances, simply because of his wants, would be a very bad examples of instability. Given that he is desperate to get reelected, the only way is for him to provide sufficient benefits to the majority of voters.

Obviously, when he loses the election he will retract the executive orders, in effect burn the whole country down just for spite. This may be the best example to support that no BUSINESS men should ever be in a presidential position ever again.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 8, 2020 at 9:10 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 9:10 pm
1 person likes this

Steven. Take a hard look at Trump's executive order and see how widely his eviction moratorium reaches. You like research. Trump could amend his executive orders every few hours. But in the meantime, maybe an order would provide a defense to some evictions being predicted. Renter-rights advocates cannot count on elected officials previously endorsed by landlords to block evictions. Renters need a PLAN B.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 8, 2020 at 9:31 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 8, 2020 at 9:31 pm
Like this comment

Gary,

Given that we are losing about 10 times more jobs than hiring regarding the latest news, there is going to some action.

Given that the EDD currently has such a lag on processing, and that the federal government only counts active recipients in its report regarding unemnployment, we really have a worse situation regarding unemployment than anyone can count.

Something will need to be done in the meantime, I suspect that the California Judges may extend their eviction processing, or the state or county is going to have to extend their actions.

Otherwise, if the evictions start, you are going to see an economic nightmare that may be twice the size of the great depression.

I really believe NO ONE wants to go there.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 9, 2020 at 8:37 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 9, 2020 at 8:37 pm
Like this comment

Gary,

I have learned an ugly lesson, do not believe what Donald Trump says.

His executive order is NOT a moratorium. In fact it is nothing but a complete waste of paper. CNN reports that that executive order only orders agencies to TRY to block evictions. It doesn't do a single thing.

The fact is though we have to do something about evictions or the state of California will fall apart even worse than what it already has.

Tent cities will be required to be provided, workers will not have any chance of doing work because they have no address, and the businesses will not be able to reopen ever.

This is just getting worse by the day.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Aug 9, 2020 at 9:01 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Aug 9, 2020 at 9:01 pm
1 person likes this

If the Judicial Council repeals or otherwise ends emergency rule 1, renters-rights advocates would need to lean on the state government and counties and cities to extend the eviction moratorium for those who qualify.


Alex M
Registered user
Willowgate
on Aug 10, 2020 at 3:26 pm
Alex M, Willowgate
Registered user
on Aug 10, 2020 at 3:26 pm
8 people like this

There is some point at which landlords should expect to be paid the rent they are owed, or be allowed to cut their losses and find tenants who can pay the rent. It isn't just renters who are hurting. Evictions are gonna happen, like it or not. There's no getting around that. But they need to happen gradually, not all at once. Maybe when the eviction block lifts, it can be replaced by a phased-in approach, say, by designating an eviction quota for each landlord, or something like that.


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