Moratorium on evictions ends as more tenants get walking papers
Small signals indicate that the California pandemic emergency is clearing up, perhaps no more important to Santa Barbara than the end of the state’s moratorium on evictions on September 30. Millions of federal funds have poured into Santa Barbara to support rent and utility payments, but evictions appear to be on the rise.
The state’s vaccination rate three months ago – 54.3% of residents fully vaccinated – prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to end his stay-at-home order, which had been in effect since March 2020. The tenants unable to work were likely re-employed and able to pay their rent after June 2021. Unemployment on Labor Day was 7.5% in California, better than it was all year, but still far from a pre-pandemic level of 4.3% in February 2020.
Not everyone was able to return to work after the shutdown was lifted, said Jennifer Smith, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Legal Aid Foundation. Hardest hit by the pandemic have been workers in Santa Barbara’s tourism industry, be it hotels, restaurants or other visitor service businesses. Some had regrouped part-time jobs or are still unemployed. Some with children at home attending distance school have felt the need to stay home with their children or have had to deal with childcare issues, said Smith, whose association offers its free services to people. and low-income families.
“We have seen a steady increase in evictions since last September, when the state’s first moratorium on evictions ended,” Smith said. Not all evictions are carried out legally, she noted, which by law requires first a notice of illegal detention to a tenant and then an eviction order from the court. “Homeowners cannot act on their own,” she warned, like changing apartment door locks.
The Santa Barbara tenants union has heard its fair share of “soft eviction” complaints. “The owners intimidate and pressure; they renovate and make noise and make it look like tenants voluntarily left, ”said Max Golding, who helped found the tenants union just over a year ago. “We’ve seen dozens of them during the pandemic and we usually arrive when it’s too late – half the building is empty and the other half is scrambling to figure it out. “
Not all notices of illegal detention lead to deportation, but county-wide records compiled by the Superior Court show the moratorium has had an effect. In 2019, 857 illegal detainees were deposited; in 2020, there were 306; in the first nine months of 2021, there were 219. But the proportion of actual evictions could increase. A tally from the sheriff’s office, whose deputies serve most legal documents, found that 410 eviction notices were served in 2019 and 138 in 2020; however, for 2021, 129 had been served as of September 30, an average monthly increase from the previous year.
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In the Santa Barbara rental landscape, a good number of corporate property owners and a large number of mom ‘n’ pop owners are members of the Santa Barbara Rental Property Association. Laura Bode, executive director of the association, said they had advised their members to seek emergency rental assistance before taking legal action. “We don’t expect SBRPA members to file many evictions like during the pandemic,” she said of ending the moratorium on evictions. “Our members have worked proactively to create payment agreements with their residents and help them apply for emergency rental assistance if needed.”
The severity of the Santa Barbara rental crisis is reflected in Santa Barbara County’s new emergency rent assistance – and the thousands of families who have been helped since similar programs began a year ago. The state, federal and county rental assistance programs have paid more than $ 16 million to landlords to cover the rental costs of unemployed and low-income tenants in Santa Barbara County – and An additional $ 40 million is provided by the federal treasury – across the county and state in four separate programs.
“The local county and the state ERA [emergency rental assistance] The programs provide eligible tenants across the county with rent arrears – current and up to three months of potential rent – for a total of up to 15 months, ”said Ted Teyber, a county housing specialist. About 1,400 households received assistance under the first county-administered program, most of them at 50% of the median income level for the county area, and more than 2,000 applications were being processed. in the second program, which is managed by the state.
The Santa Barbara County United Way administered the first $ 12 million in funding, according to the non-profit organization’s Rent & Utility Assistance webpage, which lists all of the eligibility criteria for receiving a grant. A county residence is one; another represents up to 80 percent of the region’s median income, or less than $ 70,000 for an individual; as well as a measurable effect by COVID-19. The new $ 14 million fund has currently kept United Way phones inundated with calls since this week’s announcement.
Eviction stakes are high in Santa Barbara, Smith said. The ever-present rent squeeze has been reinforced by an influx of students from UC Santa Barbara, some of whom have had to take up motel rooms, she noted. Avoiding eviction with emergency rent assistance would apply to both rent and utility payments dating back to March 2020, she said, encouraging tenants to apply for assistance.
“We call on everyone – tenants, landlords, housing providers – to work together to avoid the most serious impacts, which would be increased homelessness.”
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