UPDATE 10/19/2021 3:45 p.m. This is the latest installment in a series tracking financial assistance to San Franciscans with rent debt. We’ll aim to publish updated figures each week.
Nearly three weeks after the end of the moratorium on COVID-19-related evictions, estimated requests for rent assistance in San Francisco have surpassed authorized funds.
Thousands of households had asked for a total of $182.2 million in rent and utility assistance as of last week, seven months after the government opened a financial aid program to cover COVID-19-related housing costs tenants incurred during the pandemic, according to preliminary estimates from government officials.
That is slightly more than the amount of rent assistance available to San Francisco residents: $182.1 million, some of which is for administrative costs.
The Public Press previously reported that $152.1 million in rent assistance was available, based on figures the mayor’s office provided in July. The office has since updated that number to $182.1 million, noting an additional $30 million is available from tax revenue created by two local ballot measures. They are Proposition C, a tax on businesses passed in 2018 to fund homelessness services, and Proposition I, an increase in the real estate transfer tax passed in 2020 in part to support landlords who waived the rent payments of coronavirus-affected tenants.
Rent-relief funds for San Francisco may increase as the state reallocates money from counties where demand for financial aid has been low, said Russ Heimerich, a state spokesman. He said he could not comment on how much more money San Francisco might receive, or when.
The amount of requested financial aid has been unclear in recent weeks — that’s why the Public Press has waited until now to update this tracker — and the exact total is still unavailable. The city and state ran parallel rent-relief programs until early September, when the local program began winding down. Staffers are still transitioning many applications from the local to the state program and that process affects the running tally.
Rent debt in San Francisco stood between $147 million and $355 million in June, according to estimates by the city’s Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office, which reports to the Board of Supervisors. The figures are based on unemployment rates that peaked in April 2020, rendering as many as 33,200 renters jobless, and did not return to pre-pandemic levels during the period studied.
San Francisco residents should apply to the state’s program if they owe money for rent or other housing bills that were due in or after April 2020. People can also request financial aid for future housing costs.
The statewide eviction moratorium, protecting tenants who could not pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships, was originally scheduled to end Jan. 31, but lawmakers extended it twice. Following its final end date, Sept. 30, San Francisco tenants became vulnerable to eviction if they had not paid at least 25% of the rents due in the preceding 13 months, as well as October’s rent. State regulations say that courts should not move forward with an eviction lawsuit unless the landlord has applied for rent assistance and either the application has been denied, or the tenant has neglected to fill out their appropriate portion of it for at least 15 business days.
How to get help: If you are facing eviction, call the Eviction Defense Collaborative at (415) 659-9184 or send an email to [email protected] as soon as possible. The organization advises that tenants respond within five days of being served with court papers to avoid the risk of a default judgment against them.