California Advocates Celebrate Renter-Relief Bills

California advocates are celebrating the passage of multiple state bills that provide funding for affordable housing and protections for renters. Specific provisions include a strong FY21 budget, an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium, and 100% rent forgiveness for income-eligible tenants. Governor Gavin Newsom approved the budget act A.B.128 and COVID-19 relief bill A.B.832 on June 28.

A.B.128 allocates more than $8.5 billion to increase the supply of affordable homes, preserve existing affordable units, and provide relief for residents experiencing homelessness. Roughly $5.64 billion of that amount goes to increase supply by building or converting affordable housing developments, Project Homekey projects, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) projects, an infill infrastructure grant program, and the California Housing Finance Agency’s mixed income program.

Two billion dollars in flexible funding for housing and services for people experiencing homelessness is allocated over two years (FY 21and FY22). This funding is intended to eventually be an ongoing allocation, a major priority of advocates, like the Bring California Home Coalition. The act also allocates $800 million for preservation efforts, including funding older California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) properties and the creation of a Foreclosure Intervention Housing Preservation Program. The budget also includes $4 billion for anti-poverty and housing supports for CalWorks families, the first step toward Governor Newsom’s goal of ending family homelessness. Additionally, the state budget includes a significant allocation of resources to address the needs of homeless youth.

A.B.832 funds tenant relief and federal rental assistance for residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The act extends the eviction moratorium to September 30, protecting renters “who have experienced COVID-19-related financial distress” from eviction for failure to pay rent between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021. Rental arrears accumulated between March 1 and August 31 of last year cannot be a cause for eviction. Rental arrears accumulated between September 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021, cannot be a cause for eviction if the renter pays 25% of missed rental payments before the September 30 deadline. For income-eligible tenants, the bill offers up to 100% rent forgiveness for unpaid rental debt accumulated after April 1, 2020. Prospective rent and utilities bills are also eligible for forgiveness.

In a public statement, the California Housing Partnership applauded “the historic investment of state resources to help address the dire housing needs of California’s low-income families, including those experiencing homelessness. The enacted state budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year includes more than $5 billion to increase and preserve the supply of affordable homes as well as critical additional funding to house and provide services to persons experiencing homelessness.”

The statement continues: “‘The Roadmap Home 2030 finds that California needs to invest $17.9 billion per year over the next 10 years – an amount similar to what the state invests in higher education – to create 1.2 million new affordable homes and end homelessness,’ says Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the Partnership. ‘The enactment of this state budget is a gigantic step forward to realize the Roadmap’s goals. The Governor and Legislature deserve great thanks for this historic and precedent-setting action even as we urge them to adopt a long-term plan with sustainable annual commitments of ongoing funding at the scale that the Roadmap evidences is needed.’” 

Housing California’s Executive Director Lisa Hershey said, “Leveraging the current $75 billion surplus, California matched its investment to the scale of the need by providing a multi-year investment in homelessness, including an unprecedented $1 billion in annual permanent funding for local jurisdictions and continuums of care. By also augmenting the success of Homekey with an additional $2.75 billion over the next two years and investing over $4 billion to various programs at the Department of Social Services with the goal of ending family homelessness, California is poised to make transformative strides toward combating homelessness. These commitments reflect actions that homelessness advocates have been demanding for years.”

For more information, read Housing California’s budget analysis.