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San Diego Extends Eviction Moratorium Through September

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The freeze on all residential and commercial evictions comes as the recent spike in COVID-19 infections threatens prolong the economic pain caused by the pandemic.

Speaker 1: 00:00 A program to aid low income San Diego and struggling to pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic was approved unanimously by the San Diego city council yesterday. Joining me to discuss the relief program has KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Welcome. Thank you. Mark will give us an overview of this program. It's sponsor originally wanted a lot more money, right?

Speaker 2: 00:21 That's right. So, um, this idea was actually floated as an in concept by a council member, Scott Sherman a few months ago, but then it was, um, council member, Chris ward, uh, who put forward the actual plan about one month ago and be administered by the San Diego housing commission, which manages affordable housing for the city and also the section eight housing voucher program. Um, and you're right word. Uh, actually initially saw it about $62 million all, uh, from care Zack from the federal cares act. Um, but the council ultimately balked at, at that number. And, um, also the suggestion that the police and fire departments should get less cares, act funding than the mayor had originally wanted to give them. Um, so ultimately 15.1 million was what, uh, Chris ward could convince the majority of the council to allocate. Um, they're also seeking some philanthropic, uh, donations, but we haven't really heard, um, you know, whether those have materialized.

Speaker 1: 01:16 So a 15 million doesn't seem like a lot of money in the city this size who specifically is going to be helped. And how many people are we talking about if they know?

Speaker 2: 01:26 So the program allows for grants of up to $2,000 for any household that lives in a subsidized, low income housing unit. Um, and then up to $4,000 for a household that lives in market rate housing, um, they have to prove that there's a loss of income due to the, the COVID-19 pandemic and there's priority given to families with children or households that include anyone over 62, the housing commission estimates. It could help about 3,500 households, assuming the maximum number of $4,000 is given to everyone. So if you figure, you know, a household often is two or three or five or even 10 people, um, you know, it could help, uh, several times that number of 3,500 households,

Speaker 1: 02:09 Right, and what to a renters need to do to apply.

Speaker 2: 02:13 So the household has to be low income and that's defined as 60% in this scenario, at least as 60% of the area, median income for a family of four, that would be $69,300. So say two parents, each making about 35,000 and, and they've got two kids, there's an initial, a pre qualification phase. So the San Diego housing commission will start accepting applications online. There'll be verifying the household incomes. And, um, after the priority groups are, uh, sort of, uh, given their, um, grants, it would be expanded to other qualifying households until the money runs out

Speaker 1: 02:52 And the moratorium on evicting people for not paying rent that was extended as well. Right?

Speaker 2: 02:57 Yeah. That was the earlier action yesterday's council meeting. The eviction moratorium was supposed to expire actually at the end of yesterday. So the council extended it just in time. And now it's going to last through September 30th, it applies to both residential tenants and commercial tenants. So businesses that might've been shut down and can't pay their rent and that the inability of rent to pay rent has to be again, somehow linked to the pandemic. It doesn't mean that you can just stop paying rent. It just means that tenants who can't afford the rent, um, you know, are they're seeing their debt, uh, rise every month. And the landlords can't simply kick them out at this time. And the concern was that given that so many people are still unemployed and that so many of those who are unemployed were already living on the edge of homelessness or poverty that keeping people in their homes, even if it's just for a few more months, can prevent this rush of people being forced onto the streets, you know, while we kind of hope and wait for economic recover

Speaker 1: 03:56 And the moratorium vote, that was, it was close five, four vote. Uh, tell us about the protests, the noise the council's heard from people hit hard by unemployment and financial devastation during the pandemic.

Speaker 2: 04:07 Yeah. One of the interesting side effects of the pandemic is, is how the council has adapted to social distancing with its public comment. So the council chambers are close to the public and to give testimony before they counsel you just have to call a number and wait in a phone queue. So it's a lot more accessible. And, uh, dozens of people called in about the eviction moratorium yesterday. A there was more than an hour of public testimony, almost all of it was in sup. Uh, and many of them were tenants themselves who can't afford rent because of, of the pandemic. And so I'm not, it's, you know, it's interesting, I'm not sure that the council would be hearing those voices directly. If everyone who wanted to speak to them still had to go down to city hall, find the council chambers and testifying.

Speaker 1: 04:50 And the other side of this of course, are the landlords relying on rent money to pay their bills and provide housing in the first place. Some council members raised that issue during the debate, right?

Speaker 2: 04:59 Yeah. So as you mentioned, it was a close vote, five to four council members, Barbara Bree, Mark Kersey, Chris, Kate, and Scott Sherman voted against it. And they all cited concerns about landlords, you know, losing their income of collecting rent and potentially not being able to pay their mortgages or maintain their properties, do repairs and things like that.

Speaker 1: 05:20 And I imagine this will be a pretty significant issue in the election campaigns, both for mayor and several council seats that are up this November. However, these campaigns go

Speaker 2: 05:30 That's right. Yeah. So Barbara Brie of course, is running for mayor against Todd, Gloria. Uh, she voted against this. She was only Democrat on the council to do so. And so I, you know, listening and reading her campaign emails and things like that. She's very clearly reaching out to Republicans and independence and, um, Gloria Todd, Gloria tweeted his support for the extension. So, um, there's a clear dividing line there in the mayor's race. I haven't seen too much discussion among the council, uh, city council candidates, but, um, definitely, uh, no question that, that the COVID-19 response is very quickly becoming the biggest or one of the biggest campaign issues as we look ahead to November,

Speaker 1: 06:09 I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen. Thanks Andrew.

Speaker 2: 06:13 Thank you, Mark.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.