Of her five tenants in her small, rent-controlled building in Boyle Heights, Anne Rochier is the only one receiving rent arrears from the state’s Housing Is Key program.
“Since about the start of the pandemic, our landlord has been indicating that he intends to evict us,” Rochier said.
The Housing Is Key program is California’s rental assistance program. The program provides free financial assistance to landlords and tenants who need help with unpaid rent or utilities. The deadline for the program will expire at 11:59 p.m. on March 31.
Despite a new law extending the moratorium on evictions, activists still fear that the obstacles and delay in the system could cause a massive wave of evictions.
“Like my neighbor, Isabel, who is 70 years old and does not have a computer [and] who doesn’t speak English,” Rochier said. “He’s been back and forth for nine months.”
In Los Angeles County, 256,449 completed applications were submitted, but only 113,753 were paid for a total of more than $1.3 billion in back rent.
“And that means we have hundreds and hundreds of people still waiting for their rent assistance and they have no idea when it’s going to happen,” executive director Larry Gross said.
Although the state has extended the moratorium on evictions for three months, if a tenant has not applied for the program, they will not be protected by the moratorium. In addition, the state’s new moratorium will now override most local rental protections, some of which are stronger. Activists believe this will leave some tenants vulnerable.
“So we anticipate that the long-awaited tidal wave of evictions that has been postponed, we could start seeing that as early as tomorrow,” Gross said.
UCLA’s Institute on Inequality and Democracy estimates that half a million residents in LA County alone are behind on their March rent. However, the Greater Los Angeles Apartment Association said landlords are also struggling, with 80% of landlords in the state being small, family-run organizations.
“It is not the responsibility of private owners to provide welfare to citizens,” said the association’s CEO, Daniel Yukelson. “There is no reason why service providers and rental property owners should provide their services for free. IT was the only industry attacked by the government in this case.”