San Francisco Rent Relief Tracker

UPDATE 05/23/2022 at 3:45 p.m. This is the latest installment in a series tracking financial assistance to San Franciscans with rent debt. We publish updated figures each week, except in weeks when new data is unavailable.

More than six weeks after the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program closed its doors to new applications, close to 46% of requested funds for rent assistance in San Francisco had been paid out. 

Over 26,000 San Francisco households had asked for about $367 million in rent and utility assistance from both state and local programs as of the week of May 16, according to government figures. The amount requested declined 1.7% between April 11 and May 16 as the state continued to weed out ineligible applications. The state stopped taking applications on March 31, more than a year after it opened a financial aid program to cover housing costs incurred by tenants due to pandemic hardship. 

Though previous Public Press updates highlighted a total of $182.1 million in relief available to San Francisco residents, California has since passed legislation allowing for more funding to ensure all eligible households who applied by the March 31 deadline will be assisted. Recent budget proposals would bookmark additional money for rent relief.  

Newsom signed Senate Bill 115 in early February authorizing the reallocation of money from the state’s general fund to local and state rent relief programs to cover their costs. Any additional federal reallocations for relief will also be used to pay off program costs. 

On May 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an inflation relief package that includes $2.7 billion for emergency rental assistance as part of revisions to the 2022-2023 state budget, given its projected $97.5 billion surplus. If passed, the funds will cover requests from qualified tenants who applied before the state’s deadline. 

The following figures include San Francisco residents’ requests from California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief Program and San Francisco’s original Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which stopped taking applications in September 2021. It does not include requests from the city’s newest rent relief program, which began accepting applications April 1.

Data on requests for rent relief from the California Office of Housing and Community Development has proved difficult to follow, as the reported amount of cumulative requests has fluctuated greatly in recent weeks, according to weekly updates to the office’s databases obtained by the Public Press. 

Fluctuations are due to the high volume of applications received before the program’s deadline and ongoing efforts to remove duplicate and inactive applications, said Alicia Murillo, a spokesperson for the Office of Housing and Community Development. Inactive applications are removed 20 days after applicants fail to respond to “outstanding tasks” and direct outreach by the program, Murillo wrote in an email. 

California has received over $198 million in additional federal funds since January, when the Biden administration began reallocating unused funds from other states and counties. California has acquired nearly one out of every three dollars of federal reallocations so far. 

Rent debt in San Francisco stood between $147 million and $355 million in June 2021, according to the most recent city estimate.  

Tenants who have previously applied to the program and are awaiting rent relief are protected from eviction through June 30 for rent due between April 2020 and April 2022 under AB 2179. Under the same bill, local eviction protections passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors in March were voided. Local governments are barred from enacting any new eviction protections that would take effect before July 1. 

In response to the state’s move to cease accepting applications, the city reopened its own rent relief program for tenants who are seeking funds for rent debt accumulated in April and beyond. So far, it has distributed $1.23 million in funds to 223 households, and residents who need help are encouraged to apply

Last Friday, the city said 1,963 households had applied for assistance through the new program. Because most applications were for future rent, the department doesn’t have a clear idea of the exact amount requested, according to an email response from Audrey Abadilla, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. 

In its previous rent relief program, San Francisco assisted close to 3,200 applicants with $21.6 million in relief. An additional $382,335 in requests from 88 households are yet to be reviewed and paid out.  

The statewide eviction moratorium, protecting tenants who could not pay rent because of COVID-19 hardship, was originally scheduled to end Jan. 31, 2021, but lawmakers extended it twice. Following the moratorium’s final end date, Sept. 30, San Francisco tenants became vulnerable to eviction for nonpayment of rent if they had not paid at least 25% of the rents due in the preceding 13 months, as well as October’s rent. 

However, California lawmakers did create some protections for renters who were unable to pay back rent after the moratorium expired. Tenants who applied to the state’s rent relief program before the deadline and were waiting on relief were protected from eviction through March 2022. State lawmakers in late March extended those protections through June 30. 

Even though they may have been barred from evicting some tenants, starting in November 2021, landlords could sue tenants to obtain unpaid rent that was due from March 2020 through September 2021. If a landlord pursues the debt in small claims court, they and the tenant must represent themselves in the courtroom.

Are you 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.

Is your landlord suing you to recover pandemic rent debt? Go here to read our guide on how small claims court works, and how to argue your side of the case.

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