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UWBA and partners discuss benefits and hurdles on ERAP and AB832

Landlord harassment increases while state support stalls.
December 6, 2021

Key legislators and staff came together in November, when nonpayment eviction cases were allowed to resume, to discuss the benefits and hurdles of the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) and AB832. United Way Bay Area, TenantsTogether, and United Ways of California led a discussion sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Mark Santiago to highlight the importance of increasing transparency and protecting tenants beyond COVID-19 as the pandemic’s impact will likely outlast the pandemic itself (should it ever end). The protections we put in place for tenants now are protections tenants should have had all along, and protections that should still be in place beyond the pandemic.

Over 1,500 households have been evicted across the Bay Area region from March 2020 (when the shelter in place began) to July 31, 2021. Given the number of self-evictions, nuances in courts’ handling of evictions during the pandemic, and the recent rise in landlord harassment, the true number of tenants who suffered the stress of losing their homes is likely greater than 1,500 households. Without safe, stable, and affordable housing, all of these tenants are even further away from economic stability—especially people of color and parents who are evicted at disproportionate rates. For many of these communities, being forced out of their homes could exacerbate existing, generational financial and social inequities and increase adverse health outcomes as the pandemic continues.

Many tenants facing the threat of eviction are often impacted by multiple life events at a time. According to tenant groups and legal aid partners, many tenants experiencing eviction are also burdened by job loss, medical debt, domestic violence, and more. The expiration of the statewide eviction moratorium places tenants at a greater risk of becoming homeless on top of navigating other complex events that impact their ability to maintain safe housing. Compounding stressful life events, coupled with an expensive and convoluted legal system, makes surviving an eviction a long-winded, uphill battle—so much so that many tenants self-evict either out of fear or due to a lack of resources before they’re even put into the ring.

Tenants who are able to access limited resources through nonprofits on the ground or by calling into 2-1-1 may still be stunted by the process itself. For example, even with revisions to ERAP, uncooperative landlords and a lack of legal resources have continued to be prominent barriers to keeping tenants housed.

“Despite applying for rental assistance, sending messages, and calling the landlord, I still received an eviction notice that I needed to leave within 3 days. I have a 12 and 15-year old who are afraid of becoming homeless,” shared a tenant who is still awaiting funds.

These scare tactics and complicated legal procedures add undue stress to tenants, landlords, and legal representatives, who for the most part have been left in the dark about ERAP and court processes. The state did offer to refer ERAP applicants to low-cost or free legal aid groups since few tenants have access to legal resources (unlike landlords who are likely to have attorney representation). However, 44,000 tenants who requested the service were not contacted and did not hear back about legal support. Bills like AB1487, which was vetoed by the Governor, aim to address the same issue by increasing tenants’ access to legal representation–an expanding need.

Very few of the key players, including administrators handing out rent relief, are aware of how many applications are in the queue, how much funding is coming down the pike, or how courts will proceed. In fact, many eviction cases during the pandemic have been at the mercy of individual courts’ interpretations on how to handle cases. Lack of guidance from the judicial council has increased inconsistencies within and across regions, adding to the mass confusion.

Legislative leaders must come together to increase transparency and implement stronger protections to keep tenants housed, especially in the midst of an evolving pandemic. Learn more about the benefits and hurdles of AB832 and ERAP and what the state should do to protect tenants.

For any questions, please contact Housing & Economic Policy Analyst, Ilaf Esuf at iesuf@uwba.org.


Together, we can make an impact.

Building a strong community that takes care of everyone who lives here depends on your generous support.

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