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San Diego City Council establishes tenant legal defense fund for COVID-19 impact

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.

The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved Mayor Todd Gloria's proposal to establish a $5 million legal defense fund to help struggling tenants potentially facing eviction due to non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legal aid program is intended to use $5 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to provide eviction- prevention education and legal assistance. It will be administered by the San Diego Housing Commission and open to undocumented residents.

"I want to thank the City Council for their support to establish this important program that will provide legal assistance to San Diego tenants who need it most," Gloria said. "Along with our successful rent relief efforts, this program will make a difference in the lives of countless San Diegans who might be facing the threat of eviction during this difficult time."


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The creation of the program supplements the city's COVID-19 Housing Stability Assistance Program, which has helped roughly 12,000 San Diego households pay overdue rent and utility bills. As of the end of September, more than $103 million had been paid out. The remaining funds in the program have been fully committed to renters whose applications have received preliminary approval.

"I was pleased to make the motion in support of this vital program," Council President Pro Tem Stephen Whitburn said. "Evictions often lead to homelessness, and we simply can't afford to have more San Diegans living on the streets.

"I thank Mayor Gloria and the Housing Commission for proposing assistance to renters who find themselves on the brink of homelessness," he added.

RELATED: Days After County Eviction Ban Expired, San Diego Tenants Forced Out


Gloria said he is continuing to work with federal and state officials to secure additional rental assistance funding for San Diego.

Until March 31, landlords who want to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent — when a tenant has experienced a COVID-19-related hardship — must show that they applied for rental assistance and it was denied. If the landlord cannot demonstrate this, the case will be dismissed.

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