Updated June 29: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Friday that the state will extend its moratorium on evictions for three more months. It was set to expire on June 30. Meanwhile, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors was set to vote on its own extension.
“Having an extension gives us more time to get money in the hands of the people who really need it,” Supervisor Don Horsley said on Thursday. The county vote was expected on Tuesday.
As part of the state and federal “Housing is Key” program, the county has around $47 million in funds for renters who owe back rent because of financial hardship due to the pandemic. Of the $31 million requested so far by county residents, just over 3 million has been distributed so far.
Getting the money in the hands of renters has been tangled in bureaucracy, Horsley said. The application process, which requires various personal documents, can be arduous for some renters. It also requires paperwork from property owners who aren’t always willing to comply. The state moved to simplify the process this month, removing some of the requirements and adding translations. Last week, the state announced it would use its budget surplus to cover 100 percent of back rent. But so far, the distribution of the funds has been sluggish, with less than 10 percent of money paid out statewide.
“I think we’re doing everything we possibly can, but we just need some additional time to get this money out,” Horsley said.
The slow rollout is far from a local problem. The whole nation has seen a slow rollout of funds, but Georgi Banna, policy director at The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, said he thinks as states and localities get more comfortable working with the U.S. Department of Treasury and with local landlords and renters, the program will only accelerate.
“With any new program, there are going to be growing pains,” Banna said. “It’s not unique to California.”
Because the state’s emergency declaration ended on June 15, the county no longer has jurisdiction to decide policies like eviction moratoriums in its incorporated areas. That means, without state action, the individual cities of Pacifica and Half Moon Bay would have had to pass their own moratoriums to protect renters. On Friday morning, Half Moon Bay City Clerk Jessica Blair said the city was waiting to hear about the state’s potential extension before considering its own.
The County Board of Supervisors also considered on Tuesday $1 million in additional funding for core agencies like Coastside Hope, Pacifica Resource Center and Puente de la Costa Sur to support their work in helping local residents apply for the funding and to fill in the gaps for people who don’t qualify for state and federal aid. He thinks they are the best suited to find renters and get them the help they need.
“People know them, they go to them for anything from utility bills to a broken down car to needing rent assistance,” Horsley said.
MidPen Housing Corporation, which owns and operates low-income housing on the Coastside, has also served as a resource for some renters who need help with their application. Policy Director Nevada Merriman said so far, 250 MidPen residents living on the Coastside have applied for rent, utilities or CalFresh benefits. Across all its properties, MidPen has helped process applications for $844,000, less than 4 percent of which has been received to date, Merriman said.
She said MidPen has been advocating to the state in support of the moratorium extension, and would have been willing to cover the 20 percent of missed rent had the state not upped the coverage to 100 percent. But Merriman said not every renter is so lucky, so moves like streamlining the application process, extending the eviction moratorium and covering all rent is critical to keeping San Mateo County residents housed.
“Get the money out the door — that's our message,” Merriman said.