CA lawmakers scramble to prevent mass evictions; health experts warn of "terrible consequences"

State Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and a group of public health officials expressed concern Monday about the potential for millions of renters across the state to be evicted later this month.

Numerous Bay Area counties have extended eviction moratoriums, but the California Judicial Council’s statewide halt on eviction proceedings could end August 14.  Governor Newsom did extend his executive order that allows local jurisdictions to extend their own moratoriums through September 30. 

Assemblyman Chiu authored one of the handful of bills moving through the legislature to prevent mass evictions.  “We could see a massive way of evictions begin within a day or days of that order being rescinded, so we have less than 2 weeks to stop this from happening,” said Chiu. 

Chiu hosted a virtual news conference with public health officials like Sonoma County Public Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase and UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations Director Dr. Margot Kushel. “To allow these evictions to move forward would both be cruel and reckless,” said Dr. Kushel. 

The health experts warned kicking people out of their homes could lead to an increased spread of COVID-19. “The already catastrophic crisis of affordable housing in CA has left too many Californians particularly those in the Black, Latinx and Asian communities, living in overcrowded housing through which the virus spreads relentlessly,” said Dr. Kushel.

Chiu also called for support for Assembly Bill 1436, a bill he co-authored that would place a forbearance on rent and mortgage payments throughout the state's COVID-19 state of emergency or April 1, 2021, whichever comes first. "Keeping Californians housed is critical to keeping our state healthy during this time period," Chiu said.

But, it’s not just tenants facing serious hardship.  The California Apartment Association represents owners, investors, developers, managers and suppliers of rental homes and apartment communities. Debra Carlton is CAA’s executive vice president of state government affairs and compliance. She said CAA is skeptical of some of the tenets of the proposed legislation and its impact on homeowners.  Carlton is calling for direct cash assistance. “We certainly don’t want to see evictions happen, that’s just the worst thing for this industry,” said Carlton.  “But we also don’t want to see foreclosures, what we’re hoping for is legislation that would provide some financial assistance to landlords and tenants.”

In response to the urgent issue, Governor Newsom said he’s working to find common ground with lawmakers. “We deeply recognize people’s anxiety, we deeply recognize what’s at stake,” said Newsom at his Monday news conference.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.