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Tenant Protection Bill Awaits Governor’s Approval

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For families and individuals facing eviction in California, troubles rarely cease after a court hearing – even if the tenants win their case and aren’t evicted.

 

 

Instead, thousands of tenants across the state find themselves with tarnished credit and blacklisted from renting elsewhere, regardless of whether or not they prevailed in court.

 
That’s because under existing California law, tenants facing eviction lawsuits have 60 days after filing to win their cases. If the deadline is exceeded, court records and identities from an eviction lawsuit become publicly available.

 
The issue worsens when tenant screening companies compile this information, including names of those who were not ultimately evicted, and create blacklists that landlords can use to check an applying tenant’s history.

 

But now, there’s a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk that could put that to an end.
Authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D- San Francisco), AB 2819 would reform California law to protect innocent tenants from damaged credit and blacklists if eviction actions are resolved in their favor.

 
“Essentially if the landlord wins, then [records] will be public,” said Jith Meganathan, a policy advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty. “We are trying to ensure there is accurate reporting of people who are actually evicted.”

 

According to Meganathan, “A lot of cases go past the 60-day mark, and tenants’ information may remain on these lists for up to seven years thereafter, making it all but impossible for them to obtain rental housing in competitive housing markets.”

 

Two of the bill’s co- sponsors, Western Center on Law & Poverty and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, wrote a letter to Gov. Brown last month stressing the importance of their bill.

 
“All too often, tenants are subjected to eviction proceedings through no fault of their own—for example, in cities like Oakland with high housing demand, eviction proceedings are frequently begun as an illegal attempt to remove a law-abiding tenant so that the landlord can significantly increase the rent,” the letter reads.

 
The measure has garnered diverse support from organizations and institutions ranging from the Consumers Union, ACLU, Tenants Together, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Nurses Association, San Francisco Tenants Union and many others.

 

Advocates of the bill say they are optimistic it will receive the governor’s signature by its deadline on Sept. 30, and that legislative changes like these are crucial in today’s housing crisis.

 

“The first way you help a family thrive is making sure they have a place to call home,” said Phil Hernandez, a recent Berkeley Law graduate who originally had the idea for the bill.

 
“The best way to do that is making sure people can stay in their home, especially when they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Hernandez.

Bay Area

Mayor London Breed Announces Plan to Reform City’s Small Sites Housing Acquisition Program

“Our Small Sites program is an important part of our overall strategy to make housing affordable to all San Franciscans,” said Mayor Breed. “Preserving rent-controlled housing helps keep people in their homes, protects against displacement and evictions, and creates more stability in our neighborhoods as we make crucial decisions to build more housing in all neighborhoods. We are committed to working with our non-profit partners to reform and strengthen this program so we can make impactful investments in our upcoming budget and support the long-term viability of the Small Sites program.” 

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Supporting capacity in the City’s non-profit partners to make small sites deals and ensure that the buildings are financially sustainable.
Supporting capacity in the City’s non-profit partners to make small sites deals and ensure that the buildings are financially sustainable.

Improvements made in partnership with non-profits that help administer the program will ensure long-term success of important housing preservation and anti-displacement program

Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Ahsha Safaí announced on Tuesday the next steps to strengthen and reform San Francisco’s Small Sites Program, which preserves rent-controlled buildings and prevents tenant displacement.

First launched in 2014, the City has helped acquire 47 buildings (368 units of affordable housing) through the Small Sites Program.

The Small Sites Program is run by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD), which works to acquire and preserve at-risk rental housing with three to 25 units.

The program was created to establish long-term affordable housing in smaller properties throughout San Francisco that are particularly vulnerable to market pressure that results in property sales, increased evictions, and rising tenant rents.

In the face of the increasing pressure, the Small Sites Program helps San Franciscans avoid displacement or eviction by providing loans to non-profit organizations to successfully remove these sites from the market and restrict them as permanently affordable housing.

While the program has been an important tool, challenges have impacted implementation and acquisition. Mayor Breed sat down with non-profit partners who work with the City on administering the program and agreed to a plan to reform over the coming months to ensure the long-term viability of the Small Sites Program. Those commitments include:

  • Undergoing a study on how to make the program more efficient and the model more applicable. This study will be conducted by the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), which partners with the City on housing preservation and acquisition efforts. HAF’s recommendations are due in January.
  • Considering reform recommendations from the City’s housing partners.
  • Implementing programmatic reforms by the end of March 2022.
  • Supporting capacity in the City’s non-profit partners to make small sites deals and ensure that the buildings are financially sustainable.
  • Modernizing and reforming programming rules to ensure broader applicability geographically, including in neighborhoods currently left out of the program because of income limitations.
  • Ensuring that vacant units are immediately filled.

“Our Small Sites program is an important part of our overall strategy to make housing affordable to all San Franciscans,” said Mayor Breed. “Preserving rent-controlled housing helps keep people in their homes, protects against displacement and evictions, and creates more stability in our neighborhoods as we make crucial decisions to build more housing in all neighborhoods. We are committed to working with our non-profit partners to reform and strengthen this program so we can make impactful investments in our upcoming budget and support the long-term viability of the Small Sites program.”

“San Francisco’s vitality is dependent on keeping our current residents stably housed. The Small Sites Acquisition Program has so much untapped potential to save our diminishing rent-controlled housing stock and to keep our communities intact. We need to be bold and shift the way we have been doing things to meet this moment. Our City’s economic recovery is dependent on investing in the residents and businesses that are struggling to stay here,” stated Supervisor Myrna Melgar.

“The Small Sites program preserves existing affordable units for working families here in San Francisco through acquisition,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. “Together with Mayor Breed and Supervisor Melgar’s leadership – we have renewed our support for this vital program and San Francisco’s middle-income families. We are committed to working with our local non-profit partners and I’m proud to help lead this process to increase affordable housing options for San Francisco’s working families.”

“We thank the Mayor for renewing her commitment to the City’s housing acquisition and affordable preservation program,” said Malcolm Yeung, executive director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. “While this has been a critical tool in preventing displacement of our most vulnerable residents, it has not always worked as planned. Not only do we have to expand accessibility to a broader range of San Franciscans, especially our lowest income, we have to make the program sustainable for the organizations that are doing the work of acquiring, rehabbing, and operating the housing.”

“MEDA is firmly committed to the proven, targeted approach of the City’s Small Sites Program to fight displacement. Since 2014, our nonprofit has made 33 critical acquisitions, keeping in their longtime homes hundreds of families and dozens of commercial businesses,” said MEDA CEO Luis Granados. “Our Community Real Estate team has been maintaining and growing the program throughout the pandemic, building our own capacity and that of our nonprofit peers so that we are all best positioned to continue to purchase Small Sites apartment buildings. In partnership with the City, we look forward to acquiring additional critical buildings as we further strengthen the program to ensure all properties are financially stable and that every unit becomes home to those most in need of affordable housing.”

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Bay Area

California Moving into Next Budget Year With a $31 Billion Surplus, Analysts Say

“Under our current law and policy approach, we estimate the general fund revenue will reach $202 billion in the budget year and result in a surplus of about $31 billion for that budget year,” said Gabriel Petek, legislative analyst of the State of California, referring to LAO’s projections for fiscal year 2022-23.

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California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.
California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

California is expected to move into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022, with a whopping $31 billion surplus, according to estimates from the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO).

The LAO announced the anticipated surplus during a news briefing last week.

“Under our current law and policy approach, we estimate the general fund revenue will reach $202 billion in the budget year and result in a surplus of about $31 billion for that budget year,” said Gabriel Petek, legislative analyst of the State of California, referring to LAO’s projections for fiscal year 2022-23.

Petek said the large surplus reflects a number of trends. Among them are surpluses in the state current operating budget, money left in the economic reserve from the last fiscal year, higher revenues than projected for the last two years, etc.

“Revenue collections have grown rapidly in recent months, coming in over $10 billion ahead of budget act expectations so far this year. Underlying this growth is a meteoric rise in several measures of economic activity,” LAO report reads.

That windfall in the state reserve could mean a rebate for taxpayers or more money for education and other public spending.

State spending is expected to reach a cap set by California voters through a ballot measure in 1979 called the Gann Limit. When that happens, the state is compelled to return money to taxpayers by lowering taxes, sending out rebates or spending money on education.

Salena Pryor, president of the California Black Small Business Association (BSBA) says she is encouraged by the investments the state has made to aid small businesses and to improve the overall economic outlook for Californians most impacted by the pandemic.

She hopes the state will use monies from the surplus to sustain some of its initial investments.

“There is still a lot more work to do. Forty-one percent of Black small businesses have closed permanently due to COVID-19, so further investments into start-ups and restarts would greatly benefit our community,” she said.

California has the strongest economy of any state in the country with an estimated Gross State Product of $3.0 trillion. If it were a country, California would be the fifth-largest economy in the world.

“California has no peers – continues to have no peers. We are world-beating in terms of our economic growth,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking at the California Economic Summit earlier this month.

“In the last five years, no western democracy has outperformed the state of California. The United States has not… Germany, Japan, the U.K… no other western democracy has outperformed this state in our economic output of 21% GDP over the last five years.”

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Activism

New California “Strike Force” Gives Teeth to State Housing Laws

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their paychecks on rent, with an estimated 700,000 Californians at risk of eviction. High home purchase costs — the median price of a single-family home in California is more than $800,000 — have led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.

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The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.
The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

To advance housing access, affordability and equity, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced earlier this month the creation of a Housing Strike Force.

The team, housed within the California Department of Justice (Cal DOJ) has been tasked with enforcing California housing laws that cities across the state have been evading or ignoring.

The strike force will conduct a series of roundtables across the state to educate and involve tenants and homeowners as the state puts pressure on municipalities failing to follow housing rules and falling short of housing production goals set by the state.

“California is facing a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportion,” Bonta said. “Every day, millions of Californians worry about keeping a roof over their heads, and there are too many across this state who lack housing altogether.

“This is a top priority and a fight we won’t back down from. As Attorney General, I am committed to using all the tools my office has available to advance Californians’ fundamental right to housing.”

The Housing Strike Force will take “an innovative and intersectional approach” to addressing the housing crisis, focusing on tenant protections, housing availability and environmental sustainability, housing affordability, and equitable and fair housing opportunity for tenants and owners.

Bonta also launched a Housing Portal on the Cal DOJ’s web site with resources and information for California homeowners and tenants.

The strike force will enlist the expertise of attorneys from the Cal DOJ’s Land Use and Conservation Section, the Consumer Protection Section, the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, and the Environment Section’s Bureau of Environmental Justice in its enforcement efforts.

“California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address its housing crisis, thanks to the historic $22 billion housing and homelessness investments in this year’s budget. But it’ll only work if local governments do their part to zone and permit new housing,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The attorney general’s emphasis on holding cities and counties accountable for fair housing, equity, and housing production is an important component to the state’s efforts to tackle the affordability crisis and create greater opportunities for all Californians to have an affordable place to call home.”

According to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB), the level of Black ownership nationally has decreased below levels achieved during the decades when housing discrimination was legal.

The 2020 census reports that there was a 29.6% gap between homeownership rates for African Americans and whites. Homeowners accounted for 44.6% of the Black population as compared to 74.2% for whites.

“Blacks have made little, if any, strides at closing the homeownership gap. Systemic discriminatory regulations and policies continue to thwart any meaningful effort at increasing Black homeownership,” Lydia Pope, NAREB’s president, said.

In California, the DOJ reports that over the last four decades, housing needs have outpaced housing production. It has caused a crisis that stretches from homelessness to unaffordable homes.

Despite significant effort, the DOJ stated that California continues to host a disproportionate share of people experiencing homelessness in the United States, with an estimated 150,000 Californians sleeping in shelters, in their cars, or on the street.

Bonta said that California’s 17 million renters spend a significant portion of their paychecks on rent, with an estimated 700,000 Californians at risk of eviction. High home purchase costs — the median price of a single-family home in California is more than $800,000 — have led to the lowest homeownership rates since the 1940s.

Due to decades of systemic racism, these challenges have continuously and disproportionately impacted communities of color. For example, Bonta said, almost half of Black households in California spend more than 30% of their income on housing, compared with only a third of White families.

In addition, less than one in five Black California households could afford to purchase the $659,380 statewide median-priced home in 2020, compared to two in five white California households that could afford to purchase the same median-priced home, the California Association Realtors (CAR) said in a February 2021 statement.

The percentage of Black home buyers who could afford to purchase a median-priced, existing single-family home in California in 2020 was 19%, compared to 38% for white households, CAR stated.

“Just as the price for a single-median home reaches a new record of more than $800,000 in California, everywhere you look, we are in a housing crisis,” Bonta said during the virtual news conference on Nov. 3.

“Among all households, one in four renters pays more than half of their income on rent.”

The Housing Strike Force will address the shortage and affordability crisis by enforcing state housing and development laws in the attorney general’s independent capacity and on behalf of the DOJ’s client agencies.

Earlier this year, Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 215, enhancing the attorney general’s concurrent role in enforcing state housing laws.

AB 215 was designed for reforms, facilitating housing development and combating the current housing crisis.

Newsom also signed Senate Bill (SB) 9 and SB 10 in September, legislation designed to help increase the supply of affordable housing and speed up the production of multi-family housing units statewide.

Authored by Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), SB 9 allows a homeowner to subdivide an existing single-family residential lot to create a duplex, triplex, or fourplex.

In response to SB 9, homeowner groups have formed across the state to oppose it. The groups are citing challenges they anticipate the law will bring to their communities, from garbage collection to increased risk of fires.

Livable California, a San Francisco-based non-profit that focuses on housing, is one of the groups that opposes the new laws.

“Senate Bill 9 ends single-family zoning to allow four homes where one now stands. It was signed by Gov. Newsom, backed by 73 of 120 legislators and praised by many media. Yet a respected pollster found 71% of California voters oppose SB 9,” the Livable California website reads.

“It opens 1.12 million homes in severe fire zones to unmanaged density — one-sixth of single-family homes in California,” the message continues. “SB 9 could reshape, in unwanted ways, hundreds of high-risk fire zones that sprawl across California’s urban and rural areas.”

But Newsom says the laws are urgent and overdue.

“The housing affordability crisis is undermining the California Dream for families across the state, and threatens our long-term growth and prosperity,” Newsom said in a Sept. 16 statement.

SB 10 was designed for jurisdictions that want to opt-in and up-zone urbanized areas close to transit, allowing up to 10 units per parcel without the oversight of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“Passing strong housing laws is only the first step. To tackle our severe housing shortage, those laws must be consistently and vigorously enforced,” said California State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), chair of the Senate Housing Committee. “I applaud Attorney General Bonta’s commitment to strong enforcement of California’s housing laws.”

The Housing Strike Force encourages Californians to send complaints or tips related to housing to housing@doj.ca.gov. Information on legal aid in your area is available at https://lawhelpca.org.

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