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Board votes to extend moratorium on evictions

Push for new rent relief program

OW Staff Writer | 6/26/2020, midnight

The Board of Supervisors voted this week to spend up to $30 million on rent relief and extended a local moratorium on evictions for 30 days.

A motion co-authored by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas originally recommended pulling up to $20 million in funding earmarked for affordable housing for a new rent relief program. That would have required relaxing a rule set by the board in 2015 that requires at least 75 percent of $100 million set aside for the Affordable Housing Programs Budget Unit be spent on new housing or renovations.

Supervisor Janice Hahn asked that the motion be amended to raise the amount to $30 million and to draw the money from coronavirus relief funds instead.

Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas -- who accepted the “friendly’’ amendment - highlighted the risk of a significant uptick in homelessness due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Affordable Housing Programs Budget Unit did not contemplate an emergency on the scale of COVID-19. While we must maintain our commitment to the production of new, and preservation of existing, affordable housing we must also respond to this emergency,’’ their motion stated.

Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas cited a May report by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy predicting that as many as 120,000 households with 184,000 children could find themselves unable to pay rent and evicted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report used census data and unemployment claims to estimate that nearly 450,000 people living in Los Angeles County are unemployed and not receiving unemployment benefits.

“Even before the pandemic, the number of those who were precariously housed was shocking,’’ said Gary Blasi, a UCLA professor emeritus of law who authored the report. “About 600,000 people in Los Angeles County lived in households where 90 percent of household income was being used to pay rent.’’

A moratorium on evictions is currently in force statewide, but will expire 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom declares the end of the COVID-19 emergency, unless earlier repealed by the state’s Judicial Council. The council had planned to vote on lifting the order earlier this month, but suspended the vote, with Chief Justice Tina Cantil-Sakauye citing the need to give state legislators time to put relevant policies in place.

The Board of Supervisors voted to extend a countywide eviction moratorium to at least July 30 and asked the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to come up with a detailed plan for phasing out the prohibition.