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Millions Available For Rental Assistance, But Not Everyone Who Needs It Is Trying To Get It

A "for rent" sign is pictured in San Diego, Sept. 17, 2020.
Alexander Nguyen
A "for rent" sign is pictured in San Diego, Sept. 17, 2020.
A program to provide rent relief for San Diegans has not been as popular as city leaders expected. Fewer than 10,000 applications have been received...leaving about $50 million left unspent. Mayor Todd Gloria has even released a TV commercial urging struggling renters to take advantage of the program. Officials are now trying to figure out if the problem could be too few renters know about the rent relief available, or maybe, too few renters need it.

Thanks to federal and state COVID-19 relief programs, The San Diego Housing Commission has a lot of money available to help people struggling to pay rent, about $83 million.

Azucena Valladolis is the vice president of Rental Assistance for the San Diego Housing Commission. She said the money is primarily for three purposes.

Millions Available For Rental Assistance, But Not Everyone Who Needs It Is Trying To Get It
Listen to this story by John Carroll.

“To provide past due rent, past due utilities and upcoming rental assistance,” Valladolis said.

Latinx people make up 57% of all renters in California, but only 35% have applied for rental assistance statewide, according to the nonprofit group Tenants Together.

“We are still looking at ways to improve the number of applications that we’re receiving, specifically from the Latino community," Valladolid told KPBS.

She said the Housing Commission is leaving no stone unturned with targeted outreach to the community, placing ads in English and Spanish language media, sending out postcards in Spanish to 170,000 households, placing ads on busses and trolleys, and much more.

RELATED: City Leaders Encourage SDUSD Families To Apply For COVID-19 Rental Relief

The Commission is also working with community groups, like the Chicano Federation. Nancy Maldonado is its President and CEO.

When asked what’s behind the hesitancy among many in the Latinx community to ask for rental assistance, she had a surprising answer.

Maldonado said plenty of renters in the Latinx community owe money, but many don’t owe it to their landlord.

“They either borrowed from friends and family or took out a loan or figured out a different way to come up with the money and pay their rent," Maldonado said.

But she emphasized that the Chicano Federation still wants to help in any way it can.

If you need help with rent and/or utilities, call 211 or go to covidassistance.sdhc.org.