More Debate Ahead As Lawmakers Weigh Effect on Renters, Landlords
By Lou Hirsh CoStar News
July 29, 2020
San Diego's decision to become the latest California city to plan to extend a moratorium on apartment and business evictions in the pandemic has prompted apartment owners to consider ways to force a reversal as debates rage statewide over how to feasibly safeguard both tenants and landlords.
The San Diego City council voted 5-4 to let residential and commercial tenants work out arrangements with landlords to pay off unpaid back rent through Dec. 30, adding three months to an existing Sept. 30 repayment deadline. The decision pulled back on a prior proposal by the council president that would have extended the deadline to late March 2021.
“Our economy is not fully restored,” said Council President Georgette Gomez, who supported the compromise moratorium extension to December. “This is not an ideal policy, but it is a necessity.”
The San Diego moratorium extension, the third since the start of pandemic-related lockdowns, comes after similar actions by Los Angeles and other California cities. State moratoriums on evictions are expiring and federal lawmakers are not expected to provide significant assistance or input on that issue.
The decision by San Diego, the eighth-biggest U.S. city, is subject to a procedural second reading and vote within the next month, and it is subject to a potential mayoral veto because it did not pass late Tuesday with the minimum six votes required to make it veto-proof. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office didn't immediately respond to a request from CoStar News for a comment.
Leaders of the Southern California Rental Housing Association, formerly known as San Diego County Apartment Association, which represents property owners, said Wednesday the organization is exploring options in response to the council action on Tuesday. Those include discussions with the mayor’s office on a possible veto or counter-proposal on evictions, and also possible legal action.
“We continue to have serious concerns about how the extension of the repayment period, and the moratorium itself, may impact rental housing providers and their ability to continue to provide much needed homes,” association President Kendra Bork said in an email to CoStar News. “Placing property owners in a position where they may lose their property does not help tenants in the short or long term.”
Supporters said the extension is needed to aid apartment residents and small business owners still reeling from job losses and business closings spurred by the pandemic. Opponents, including the apartment landlords, contend that renters are jeopardizing property values and taking undue advantage of moratoriums, including some renters who had eviction procedures started before the pandemic struck.
California lawmakers are considering several proposals that would extend current renter safeguards while providing financial assistance and incentives to landlords. Among those is state Senate Bill 1410, put forward by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez of Long Beach and backed by the California Apartment Association, which would provide participating landlords with financial assistance covering at least 80% of tenants’ monthly rent owed for up to seven months.
Under that program, landlords would agree not to pursue the remaining 20% that is owed for those months, and not increase the rent or charge late fees. Lawmakers are also discussing tax breaks that could help landlords make up for lost revenue in that program.
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