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Bay Area Evictions Soar as Pandemic Renter Protections End

Evictions across the region have increased as California’s state and local pandemic-induced renter protections expired at the end of June. Tenant advocates expect eviction rates to continue rising.

(TNS) — Evictions are soaring since California state and local pandemic protections lapsed over the past year, with cases across the core five-county Bay Area more than doubling, according to a Bay Area News Group analysis of court data.

From July 2021 through June 2022, the region saw more than 6,300 eviction filings. The surge began when many emergency tenant protections were rolled back in September 2021, and it has spiked even higher as statewide safeguards were progressively lifted, expiring altogether at the end of June.

During that time, eviction cases skyrocketed across Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco and Contra Costa counties. The exception was Alameda County, where local tenant protections remain in place. Despite the lower numbers there, by this summer, the region saw over 1,000 eviction court filings in both June and July alone.

Multiple landlord groups have sued to end the protections in Alameda County — which still allow evictions under certain circumstances — arguing the moratoriums are no longer necessary since the worst of the pandemic is over and most people have returned to work.

Tenant advocates say they expect evictions to continue to soar as many renters are still recovering from the economic fallout and in some cases, are stuck waiting on backlogged emergency public rent assistance programs.

“We’ve been seeing the eviction tsunami that we as tenants rights advocates had been warning about,” said Nassim Moallem, acting supervising attorney at the nonprofit Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.

Gabriela Sanchez is among the thousands of Bay Area residents caught in the wave. After she underwent uterine cancer surgery this summer, she missed a $2,866 rent payment for the two-bedroom apartment she rented near downtown San Jose. A few weeks later, she received an eviction notice.

The single mother and her two sons, ages 7 and 13, are now staying at a friend’s cramped studio apartment. The frantic search for a new home taking its toll.

“The older boy feels very stressed, very anxious,” Sanchez said in Spanish, through a translator. “I have to keep knocking on doors.”

When the pandemic took hold in March 2020, Sanchez and other struggling renters were protected by eviction bans by the state and local governments. The state also launched a $5.2 billion rent relief program, and many cities and counties created their own tenant assistance plans.

Even though some evictions were permitted under the moratoriums and rental aid programs were slow getting money out the door, the efforts proved largely successful in keeping many tenants from losing their homes. But in September 2021, at the urging of landlord groups, the state allowed its eviction ban to expire. Many local bans also ended.

State protections remained in place as long as struggling tenants applied for rent relief. But those safeguards were scaled back in March before expiring altogether on June 30, even though around 16,000 applications for rental aid remained pending in the Bay Area alone.

Despite the recent surge in evictions, the number of court filings last year was roughly half the 11,055 recorded from June 2018 through July 2019, the last full fiscal year before the pandemic shut down the economy. But recent monthly eviction figures indicate all counties except Alameda could now be on pace to match or surpass their pre-pandemic yearly totals.

Moallem with the Law Foundation noted the court data only accounts for a fraction of actual evictions initiated by landlords. That’s because after receiving an eviction notice, many tenants choose to move out rather than face an intimidating legal process and risk having a black mark on their record.

“On a large scale, this is displacement,” Moallem said. “We’re seeing the majority of people who are going to experience an eviction are low-income communities of color. And the rent is so high that they are forced to move out of the area because they can’t afford it.”

At the same time, Derek Barnes, chief executive with the East Bay Rental Housing Association, said two ongoing eviction bans in Alameda County and Oakland — among the last anywhere in the state — are disproportionately hurting small mom-and-pop landlords, who are often immigrants or people of color. Many have been forced to sell their rental properties after tenants were unable or unwilling to pay rent, Barnes said.

“When they get out of the business, those properties are often picked up by larger corporations that are not part of the community,” Barnes said.

Tenant advocates say the protections are needed to protect low-income tenants in areas with a history of displacement.

Because of those protections, Alameda County had the lowest eviction rate in the region last year, with one eviction filing for every 682 households, according to court data. Next came Santa Clara with one for every 378 households; San Mateo at one for every 364 households; San Francisco with one for every 262 households; and Contra Costa with one for 228 households.

San Francisco has phased in a new COVID-19 eviction ordinance this year, but under state law it can only cover missed rent payments after July 1, 2022.

Sanchez, who is now living in Sunnyvale, said she is struggling to find a new apartment while also managing work at a house cleaning service and driving her sons to and from school in San Jose.

She hopes to move into an affordable housing complex that’s more livable than her last apartment, which had mold, broken appliances and other habitability issues, she said. A San Jose code enforcement spokesperson confirmed the problems in Sanchez’s unit and said most had been resolved in September.

Sanchez’s landlord did not respond to questions about the condition of Sanchez’s apartment or her eviction.

Officials at her son’s school are working with the family to help apply for apartments. When Sanchez sees other mothers there, she hears many are now facing a similar uncertainty.

“There’s a lot of stories about problems with landlords,” she said.

©2022 MediaNews Group, Inc. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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