The coronavirus pandemic has cost millions their jobs, and that means many tenants haven’t been able to pay rent, landlords have had trouble making mortgage payments and other bills are also stacking up. It’s not clear exactly how big Californian’s debt burden has gotten, but one UC Berkeley study estimated that the rents owed by California households affected by the state’s economic shutdown add up to nearly $4 billion a month.
Sarah “Fred” Sherburn-Zimmer, director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, and Katrina Logan, director of the economic advancement program at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, predict an uncertain future for residents whose debt burden is growing rapidly. Debts can be sold to collections agencies, and even keep renters from accessing affordable housing, they said.
“The Bay Area has lower caseloads because we made decisions to shut down early. Right now we’re asking workers to hold all that burden themselves. We’re asking tenants to hold that burden. And it’s a burden we have to share across society.” — Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer
“That’s sort of the scary part about debt and that collection industry: It could go on and on… All of our courts in California are overwhelmed with debt collection cases all the time, and there’s still cases being filed today.” — Katrina Logan
A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.