Over the past few months, many people have started talking about what a post-pandemic recovery looks like.
But with the havoc the virus has wrought on healthcare systems, school staff and supply chains, it’s clear that the effects of this pandemic are far from over. Without public funds to support safe quarantine from exposure to COVID-19, lost wages due to illness, dwindling rental assistance available in Marin County, and the growing threat of eviction, many of Marin’s most vulnerable residents find themselves stranded with no semblance of safety to report.
During previous peaks of the pandemic, we all agreed that keeping people in their homes was critical to the health and safety of our community. The need to keep our community members housed has not changed. We’re calling on Marin County supervisors to issue a countywide moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent beginning April 1, when state protections expire.
Those most at risk of eviction in Marin are families struggling to find steady work while balancing childcare needs, as well as older tenants who – often due to health issues – have lost access to the reliable jobs they depended on before the pandemic.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income people, communities of color and undocumented residents. The same is true here in Marin, where many low-income residents, immigrants, and people of color work as domestics and construction workers — often without benefits or protections, like paid sick leave, enjoyed by employees of other sectors.
Keeping our community members housed during the ongoing pandemic is the right thing to do from a moral, economic, and public health perspective.
By keeping people at home, we will:
• Enable workers to stay in the area, thereby enabling them to keep their jobs and avoid further labor shortages in the local economy
• Keep children in stable school environments, which have been shown to help their educational development
• Ensure students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds have access to food in public schools
• Ensure residents have a safe and private place to self-quarantine in case they become ill with COVID-19, thereby preventing transmission of the virus
• Prevent more people from becoming homeless, as homelessness exacerbates physical and mental health problems, the likelihood of experiencing violence and the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
The vast majority of tenants do everything possible to stay housed. They apply for rent assistance, go into debt with friends and family to cover current rental costs, and rely on legal assistance programs to ensure their situation is properly documented.
Despite these measures, countless tenants are still waiting to hear the status of their pending rental relief applications as the county resolves the backlog. A moratorium on evictions would provide essential protection during this waiting period.
For several months during the pandemic, tenants were protected by California’s statewide eviction moratorium, which protected everything if they were unable to pay rent due to the pandemic. But in October, that was replaced with a weaker law that protects tenants from eviction only if they’ve applied for state or local housing assistance, paid 25% of their rent due September 1, 2020. September 30, 2021 and have started paying. their full rent in October.
Those eviction protections, which are outlined in Assembly Bill 832, expire March 31. This means most places – including Marin – will allow landlords to evict tenants for non-payment of rent from April 1. This expiring law has also prevented local jurisdictions from enacting their own eviction moratoria — that’s where Marin County supervisors can step in.
Providing members of our community with expanded eviction protection would allow more time for rent relief applications to be processed and for additional federal relief money to reach the state and county.
It would also give tenants certainty about the fate of their accommodation so that they do not preemptively evict themselves. Marin supervisors have the opportunity — and the obligation — to help their constituents by enacting a new countywide eviction moratorium.
We encourage them to do so as soon as possible.
David Levin of Mill Valley is the housing advocate and board member of the Marin Environmental Housing Collaborative. Cesar Lagleva is a resident of San Rafael.