More than 150,000 Bay Area tenant households are at the highest risk of eviction and possibly face homelessness due to income loss and the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, up to 40 million U.S. renters may face eviction by the end of the year.
In response to this emerging crisis, the Wells Fargo Foundation announced on Wednesday that it is donating $400,000 to Bay Area Legal Aid to support their work to provide free legal assistance and representation to Bay Area families disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and at risk of eviction.
The California eviction moratorium expires on February 2021. In addition, nearly every county and city in the Bay Area has eviction moratoriums ordinances, making the protections difficult to navigate.
“We expect to see many low-income renters facing eviction for nonpayment of rent in the next several months. And the patchwork of protections is complicated, so it is essential for tenants to get legal advice and help,” said Housing Supervising Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid Lisa Greif. “The bottom line right now is if your landlord serves you a notice to pay rent or you get other legal paperwork – call us at Bay Area Legal Aid.”
“Lack of legal representation for low-income individuals is a glaring equity gap,” said Erica Trejo, senior vice president of philanthropy for Wells Fargo. “We believe supporting efforts to provide low-income renters at risk with legal assistance is an important step in helping the most vulnerable families stay housed.”
A Harvard study has shown that two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home. People of color, particularly Black and Latino tenants, represent 80% of people potentially facing eviction, sometimes even unlawfully, despite local moratoria intended to protect them.
Harvard researchers found an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do, putting them at a significant disadvantage. However, two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their homes.
Wells Fargo Donations-to-Date in Bay Area
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Wells Fargo Foundation has donated more than $18.4 million this year-to-date as part of its $175 million response to COVID-19.
The local philanthropic contributions focused on addressing pressing community issues such as affordable housing, small business growth, financial health, human and social services, environment, education and workforce development.
The grant to Bay Area Legal Aid to help keep people housed are part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s $1 billion philanthropic commitment to address solutions for the housing affordability crisis by 2025.
The Wells Fargo Foundation efforts to address the housing affordability crisis in response to COVID-19 includes expanding the capacity of housing counselors to respond to renters and homeowners, supporting nonprofits that provide affordable rental homes and services, and support for legal assistance organizations to provide legal counsel and representation for renters at-risk of eviction.
These efforts build upon the Wells Fargo Foundation’s $1 billion philanthropic commitment to address housing affordability solutions by 2025 by investing in strategies to advance housing stability, increasing supply of affordable homes; expanding homeownership opportunities for people of color; and driving transformation and innovation in local communities.
Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com.
Edith Robles is a spokesperson and vice president for Wells Fargo.