“The previous model of extending the eviction moratorium, more or less month by month, is understandable given the degree of uncertainty we’ve all been facing,” said Mitch Mankin, Policy and Advocacy Associate with SV@Home. “But at this point, we need to recognize that the pandemic conditions we’re working under are unfortunately not going away anytime soon.” San Jose leaders voted unanimously to extend the city’s eviction moratorium to Sept. 30, but the debate about how to balance challenges faced by tenants and landlords continues.

 

BY: Carly Wipf┃San Jose Spotlight
PUBLISHED: August 25, 2020

 

As the county’s shelter-in-place order shuttering the local economy puts more residents at risk of losing their homes, San Jose leaders voted unanimously to extend the city’s eviction moratorium to Sept. 30.

The council Aug. 25 also decided to explore aligning the moratorium with the local state of emergency declaration. Still, the debate about how to balance challenges faced by tenants and landlords continues.

As housing advocates have pointed out, the ban on evictions only prevents people from being forced out of their apartments — it does not forgive back rent.

“I don’t want to see anyone evicted during the moratorium; I think we should extend it to September 30. If we could do it longer, I’d probably agree with that as well,” Councilmember Pam Foley said. “But when we are taking that pot of money that isn’t being paid to the landlord, over time it is becoming so large that it becomes untenable for a tenant to pay it back at any point.”

San Jose has extended its eviction moratorium monthly since it was enacted on March 17. On Aug. 11, the county directed leaders to return with a plan for extending the moratorium for residential tenants and aligning it with the state.

Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed local governments to extend moratoriums up to Sept. 30.

As the city keeps revisiting the moratorium, Mayor Sam Liccardo asked city officials the question on many renters’ minds: “Why wouldn’t you just pick a date farther out?”

Rachel VanderVeen, deputy director of San Jose’s housing department, said city leaders were directed to study the economic impacts of extending the moratorium every month.

“The previous model of extending the eviction moratorium, more or less month by month, is understandable given the degree of uncertainty we’ve all been facing,” said Mitch Mankin, a policy associate with Silicon Valley at Home, an affordable housing advocacy organization. “But at this point, we need to recognize that the pandemic conditions we’re working under are unfortunately not going away anytime soon.”

San Jose’s 12.4 percent unemployment rate is now higher than the county average and greater than levels seen in California during the 2008 Great Recession, according to a report from city leaders.

The unemployment rate in the county, however, fell to 9.3 percent in July — down from a record high of 11.6 percent in April.

Evictions will largely affect those with lower incomes, communities of color and undocumented workers, Jacky Morales-Ferrand, the city’s Housing Department director stated in a memo ahead of the City Council’s vote on the moratorium.

“We still have people out of work. Extended unemployment benefits have been taken away. So the need is still there,” said Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network. “I would ask both the city and county to extend it for as long as the pandemic goes on.”

Since March, approximately 1,600 notices of termination were submitted for tenants not paying rent, according to city data. The number of notices has increased since the eviction moratorium went into effect but the number of unlawful detainer (eviction) cases has decreased since the courts closed.

The courts are scheduled to hear new eviction cases after Sept. 1 and they could receive a deluge of cases upon reopening, Morales-Ferrand said.

Loss of revenue during the pandemic will affect landlords in both the short and long term, according to the city report. This can include the inability to pay mortgages, property taxes and expensive court costs. Small property owners are at greater risk of foreclosure and bankruptcy in the long run.

According to a survey from the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, landlords reported their property income accounted for at least a quarter of their retirement income. One in four landlords reported borrowing funds to make ends meet. Almost two in five were concerned about making ends meet in the next 90 days.

Councilmember Raul Peralez suggested the city prohibit evictions due to nonpayment of rent during the pandemic after the moratorium expires. This idea will be discussed at a future City Council meeting.

“Somebody is going to have to get paid — whether it’s the tenant getting money to pay the landlord, or the landlord getting money to pay the mortgage,” Councilmember Lan Diep said. “If we in San Jose, come up with a bill or a law that essentially says there is no tension here, that we’ve wiped out all debts for tenants, that potentially would negate legally a claim that tenants or landlords might have.”

The council will revisit this topic on Sept. 29.

Contact Carly Wipf at carly@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.