California’s program to alleviate rent debts — and prevent a wave of evictions in July — makes it tough for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents to request financial aid, community groups in San Francisco say. The way the system is designed prevents many people from applying, including those who live in informal housing arrangements, those who do not speak English and those who lack digital proficiency, according to staff at local organizations helping tenants and landlords file applications.
San Francisco residents who are behind on their rent and other housing costs could soon get financial relief, thanks to government programs designed to help those who qualify.
More than four of every five San Franciscans receiving rental assistance from the city have been Latino or African American residents, the groups hit hardest by COVID-19 infections, public records show. Philanthropic donors have poured $31.4 million into the Give2SF Fund, $6.3 million of which is targeted at helping people cover housing costs, according to the fund’s most recent progress report. To date, 1,443 households have been allocated as much as $5.8 million in housing assistance, with the average grant being $4,000.
Facing the high costs of pandemic response, San Francisco officials are making a play for a pile of cash that voters created through a 2018 ballot measure. But many of their proposals for that money lose sight of what voters had in mind when they passed Proposition C, says the measure’s author. That was to finally turn the homelessness crisis around. Proposition C established a gross-receipts tax on large businesses, netting hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that was locked up in court until September. City staff last week appealed to the fund’s oversight committee, requesting money to cover recent expenses and expand existing programs, including a pharmacy run by the Department of Public Health. But these are hardly the types of results that voters expected, said Jennifer Friedenbach, who wrote the ballot measure and is the executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.
San Francisco will soon spend previously unthinkable sums on the fight against homelessness. The massive influx of cash — nearly $600 million over the next year collected thanks to a voter initiative, combined with hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures by the homelessness department — could be a game changer.
On Tuesday, Mayor London Breed extended until Dec. 1 her order blocking most evictions in the city. But that is just one aspect of eviction regulations, which are robust and complicated. Here’s how they affect renters.
Mayor London Breed Tuesday gave San Francisco tenants an additional month to figure out how they will cover rent and avoid eviction, in light of economic hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the soonest landlords could legally evict for nonpayment of rent is Dec. 1. That’s a month later than the previously announced eviction moratorium was set to end. The information was initially made public in a web post from the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco. The San Francisco Public Press received confirmation of these changes from Hugo Ramirez, a staff member at the Mayor’s office.
San Francisco residents have requested four times the rent assistance City Hall can provide, indicating a widening gap between resident needs and the city’s ability to help. The city is in the process of giving out $7 million to help people cover rent — but it has received more than $28 million in requests from over 6,800 applications since this spring, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, which is disbursing the money from the Give2SF COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
A challenge to San Francisco’s eviction moratorium lost in court Monday. The San Francisco Apartment Association and three co-plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco in June to overturn legislation that took eviction permanently off the table for unpaid rents due during the pandemic. They argued that it was an unconstitutional taking of property and pre-empted state law. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles Haines heard arguments in the case Friday before ruling in favor of the city. “This is a resounding victory for vulnerable tenants in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, the legislation’s author, on Twitter.
San Francisco’s housing and homelessness service providers worry that City Hall’s budget decisions will leave them unprepared to face an expected wave of housing displacement. Interviews with staffers at a dozen nonprofits found that calls for assistance have increased by at least 30% and at some organizations by as much as 200% since March when the pandemic forced San Francisco residents to shelter in place amid a recession characterized by widespread income loss. Many providers are concerned expected city budget cuts will hobble their ability to provide vital aid like rental assistance, legal representation in eviction cases, food and emergency shelter, just when clients need help the most. One likely outcome of expected cutbacks they predicted: a worsening of the city’s already daunting homelessness crisis. “We’re all bracing ourselves for a huge growth in the numbers of those who are living on the streets, no question,” said Sara Shortt, director of public policy and community outreach at the Community Housing Partnership, a supportive housing nonprofit.