COVID-19 impact: 24,000 San Franciscans are behind on rent, some on the verge of homelessness

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
COVID-19 impact: 24,000 San Franciscans are behind on rent
In San Francisco, there are 24,000 tenants behind on rent, and the local and state programs only protect about 8,500 of those tenants.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco, there are 24,000 tenants behind on rent, and the local and state programs only protect about 8,500 of those tenants. At the state level, local leaders believe the numbers are staggering.

One of those tenants is Maria Venegas. Maria is a single mom of two, who self-evicted after she says her landlord harassed and threatened her for being behind in rent.

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Maria lost her job during the pandemic and was several months past due.

In January, she moved to a hotel room in the Tenderloin where the monthly fee is $1000, but with only two days of work at a restaurant, she can't afford this either.

Monday California's Assembly passed the state's Eviction Protection and Rent Relief Bill.

Under the bill existing COVID eviction prevention policies would be extended through September 30, 2021. These protections provide that renters with COVID-related financial hardships cannot be evicted if before October 1, 2021, the renter is able to 25 percent of the rent owed between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2021.

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"We are looking between 150 million and 350 million dollars owed in backed rent," said San Francisco supervisor, Dean Preston and added, "We are talking about a total of 90 million that has been committed through the federal government that still leaves about 60 million dollars gap."

As of Wednesday San Francisco received 1,800 application for rent relief a total of $16 million dollars are needed just for that. Supervisor Preston is pushing for more aid.

"It will be tens of millions of dollars more. In a worse case situation it would be 100 million dollars more but we have reserves in the city," said Supervisor Preston.

SF: The full amount of available federal funding for local rent relief is approximately $91m, broken down as follows:

  • $63 million to the local program administered by the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Develop (MOHCD)
  • $28 million to the state program, reserved for San Francisco tenants

On the state program, the most recent data shows 3,420 submitted applications, for a total of $48,259,730 requested. The state program has disbursed $2.79m to landlords to date. (Supervisor Dean Preston's office)

Maria Venegas and her two kids are hoping this aid can also help them.

Luz: "You tried to go to a shelter and they told you they were packed and there was no room for you and your family?"

Maria Venegas: "Si que no habia mas espacio. Durante la pandemic se lleno." (Yes, that there wasn't enough space. During the pandemic they filled up.)

Luz Pena: "You owe 3 months here (hotel)?"

Maria Venegas: "Si con esta que viene. Me toca pagar el 12." (Yes, and also the one coming up. I have to pay on the 12th.)

Luz Pena: "You owe $3,000?"

Maria Venegas: "Si." (Yes.)

Maria's story is one of 24,000 households in San Francisco that are struggling with past due rent payments due to job loss during the pandemic.

California's rent forgiveness program will cost $5.2 billion. On Friday, Gov. Newsom said it will be the largest rent relief package in the nation.

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"It is a huge step in the right direction finally the Newsom administration and state leaderships has changed and has said basically we are going to allow tenants to recover 100 percent of the backed rent," said Shanti Singh with Tenants Together.

As for Maria she is holding on to her faith and holding back tears in front of her kids.

Luz Pena: "There are moments when you go to the bathroom and cry?"

Maria Venegas: "Si, yo les digo que todo va a estar bien." (Yes, but I tell them everything will be okay.)

To help Maria and her kids click here.

Under AB 832 also expands California's existing rent relief program by providing rent relief funding for 100 percent of rental debt accrued since April 1, 2020. Previously, eligible landlords received 80 percent of the rental debt and were required to forgive 20 percent of the debt. Tenants who applied without the cooperation of their landlord received 25 percent of the rent owed. In addition to new applicants, existing applicants who already applied or received funds from the program will automatically get additional funding to cover 100 percent of rent owed.