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Two State Bills Aim To Head Off San Diego’s Coming Eviction Crisis

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Photo by Max Rivlin-Nadler

Above: Part of a "Rent-Strike" Caravan that drove through San Diego County on Friday, May 1, 2020.

With housing courts set to reopen on Sept. 1, thousands of tenants in San Diego now face possible eviction.

Two bills now working their way through the legislature aim to keep people in their homes. One, Assembly Bill 1436, would make it so no one could be evicted for unpaid rent accumulated during California’s coronavirus state of emergency.

The other, Senate Bill 1410, would have the state of California pay landlords at least 80% of the unpaid rent in tax credits. Tenants would then pay off that balance to the state as part of their taxes starting in 2024. Some low-income tenants wouldn’t have to pay at all. But that program would be voluntary.

Greg Knoll, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, sees the two bills as heading off an eviction crisis in a city already struggling to house its low-income residents.

“[They provide] the protections we need for tenants, to prevent them from being homeless and having a bigger problem on our hands, while at the same time, allowing landlords to get some sort of remuneration in some way for the unpaid rent,” he said.

RELATED: As Moratoriums End, An Eviction Crisis Looms Over San Diego County

He also sees this as a possible blueprint for solving California’s housing crisis, well beyond the pandemic.

“We’ve got to do something in the long term to not allow families and households to be put on the street," Knoll said. "We have got to figure out something.”

SB 1410 has the support of the California Apartment Association, which represents landlords statewide. It also has the support of San Diego state Sen. Toni Atkins.

But Grace Martinez, a San Diego-based organizer with the tenant-advocacy group ACCE, said only AB 1436, which would continue to pause evictions, has their full support. She’s worried that some landlords wouldn’t opt-in to SB 1410, and instead pursuing eviction of their tenants for non-payment.

“Many tenants that we are talking to and who are members of our organization are being harassed," she said. "And this is an opportunity for a lot of landlords to really push people out at this time, and that’s what we’re seeing through their actions.”

With Sept. 1 on the horizon, state leaders are now working to reconcile the two bills, hoping they’ll come to some solution before the end of the legislative session, and the beginning of a wave of mass evictions across the state.

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