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As Tenant Protections End , Nonprofits Step In by Jessica Hice
Most of the state of California ’ s COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act tenant eviction protections ended on Sept . 30 this year . Some California nonprofits have been assisting Sacramento renters and housing management staff and will continue to do so , even as extensions of the law are put in place .
The original eviction moratorium applied to rent due Mar . 1 , 2020 , through Sept . 30 , 2021 . Under this law , tenants were instructed to submit a COVID-19 declaration to their landlords and return it within 15 days of loss of income or increased expenses . A minimum of 25 % of rent was due each month , according to the City of Sacramento .
Now , the COVID-19 Rental Housing Recovery Act , an extension of the original , continues to prohibit local governments from creating their own eviction restrictions for nonpayment of rent through Mar . 31 , 2022 . A key requirement is that the landlord must apply for rental assistance before proceeding with an eviction lawsuit based on nonpayment , according to the California Apartment Association .
But the laws are more complex than that .
Tahirih Kraft , director of housing services at Sacramento Self-Help Housing , a nonprofit that helps individuals and families find adequate housing through various serviceoriented programs , says starting Oct . 1 , 2021 , the Tenant Act doesn ’ t apply to new renters . For example , if you moved into a new rental on Oct . 2 , 2021 , Kraft says you are not eligible for assistance . Tenants are no longer eligible to only pay 25 % of their rate — it now has to be 100 % within three days . But , Kraft adds , emergency funding is available through the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency , and evictions for non-payment of the 25 % owed cannot occur before Apr . 1 , 2022 .
For those who need further assistance , SSHH offers a renters helpline that is experiencing an influx of calls . At the helm is founder and CEO John Foley , who says the pandemic has affected property management businesses as well as renters .
“ There is an awful lot of staff turnover in the property management area , and there is not a depth of expertise that you would expect in a complicated situation with changing regulations ,” Foley says . “ You can ’ t just rush eviction .”
Foley says SSHH offers conflictresolution advice , but if legal assistance is needed , he suggests contacting Legal Services of Northern California , a nonprofit that provides free civil legal assistance to vulnerable populations in 23 counties . Currently , LSNC is offering both virtual and in-person assistance for low-income Californians free of charge .
Further assistance can be found at the SSHH renter ’ s hotline : ( 916 ) 389-7877 ; SHRA ’ s Emergency Rental Assistance Program : ( 916 ) 449-1266 ; and LSNC : ( 916 ) 551-2150 .
In 2018 , homeless advocates won a pivotal ruling in the U . S . Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit which held that cities cannot prevent homeless people from camping on public grounds if beds are not available . Diederich says a missing piece of Placer County ’ s effort to get the homeless population off the streets is the lack of “ no-barrier beds ,” where individuals who are not clean and sober have access without restrictions . As a result , Diederich says , Placer County is limited in its legal ability to remove homeless camping on public property because it doesn ’ t offer everyone an alternative .
“ We need more no-barrier beds in order to provide homeless that are out in the community sleeping in the elements the opportunity to change ,” Diederich says . He says The Gathering Inn is pushing an idea in Placer County for a “ Campus of Hope ” based on a similar program in San Antonio , Texas , that would consolidate homeless services and shelters into one location . The proposal includes about 240 micro-housing units , centralized mental health and social services , and no-barrier beds . “ We ’ ll see where this goes , but we really think that ’ s the way for Placer County to handle ( its ) homeless .”
“ I ’ ve been trying to make the case with the partnering county that nonprofits are your army ,” says Saint John ’ s Program for Real Change CEO Julie Hirota , whose programs serve about 500 people each year . “( Government ) can ’ t be everything for everybody , but the nonprofits can address a lot of nuances . For instance , we focus on women and children only , so we can do that well . We can spend the time , energy and money to work on traumarelated issues for women .”
Saint John ’ s started as an emergency shelter for women in Sacramento County , but it has grown into a full program working to transition women out of homelessness . It takes a different approach than other agencies , Hirota says , putting the emphasis on permanent housing at the end of the program rather than at the beginning . Women work their way toward that goal by spending up to 18 months with Saint John ’ s for services that include addiction recovery , mental health care , parenting therapy and job training . Once employed , they work with Saint John ’ s on a money management plan focused on self-sustainability and managing a household .
Hirota says that while communities are very concerned about homelessness ,
18 comstocksmag . com | December 2021