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San Diego Approves Relief Fund For Renters Hurt By Pandemic

Apartments in the San Diego neighborhood of Talmadge are shown on Jan. 2, 2019.

Photo by Megan Wood / inewsource

Above: Apartments in the San Diego neighborhood of Talmadge are shown on Jan. 2, 2019.

San Diego City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to establish a rental relief fund to help struggling tenants and landlords hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fund proposed by Councilmember Chris Ward would use a portion of the city's allocation from the federal stimulus bill, the CARES Act, to make direct payments to landlords whose tenants have been unable to pay rent because of the pandemic's economic fallout.

The council voted last month to extend the city's moratorium on residential and commercial evictions until June 30, but some fear a mountain of back rent could push some renters into homelessness after the moratorium expires.

Ward said in a press conference before the council meeting that rental relief was the primary gap in the city's pandemic response.

"Unemployment has spiked to nearly 10 times pre-COVID levels, and while some businesses are slowly reopening with guidance from public health officials, we know it will be many months at the least until our tourism and hospitality industries recover," he said. "In the meantime, thousands of San Diegans are left without meaningful support."

The program won the support of landlord organizations who say a sharp loss in rental income could make it difficult for them to pay their own bills.

RELATED: How Will San Diego County Spend Its $334 Million In Stimulus Funds?

Reported by Andrew Bowen , Video by Andi Dukleth

"This proposal will help property owners to continue to make mortgage payments, pay their plumbers, roofers and painters, and continue to provide the necessary upkeep associated with quality rental housing here in San Diego," said Todd Henderson, an independent landlord and board member of the Southern California Rental Housing Association.

Tenants would have to make less than 60% of the county's median income to qualify for the program, which would be administered by the San Diego Housing Commission. Commission President Rick Gentry said it would likely take until August to publicize the fund, establish renter and landlord eligibility and make the funds available.

Ward's office is proposing $61.9 million for the fund, though the exact amount, and the funding source, will be determined when the council votes next week to approve a budget for the coming fiscal year.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has already proposed a spending plan for the city's CARES Act funding that did not include any money for rental relief. Ward proposes shrinking the share of funds the mayor is proposing for the police and fire departments and the Convention Center homeless shelter.

Dozens of residents called into the council's meeting in support of Ward's proposal, many of them calling for the San Diego Police Department to be defunded after officers used tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters last weekend. The protests were in opposition to police violence and the killing of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of the Minneapolis police on Memorial Day.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

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Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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