Richmond considering emergency order suspending rent and mortgage payments

An emergency order that would "suspend all residential and small business rents, and all mortgage payments of homeowners, small landlords and small businesses for the duration of the current shelter-in-place state of emergency" will be considered by the Richmond City Council when it meets on Tuesday.

The order proposed by Councilmen Eduardo Martinez and Melvin Willis also calls for establishing a city service to assist the city's small businesses and landlords in filing for government assistance, including the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act (CARES).

Richmond declared a state of emergency on March 17 and a moratorium on COVID-19 coronavirus-related evictions for non-payment of rent on April 7.

The staff report for the proposed emergency order noted that "Although people are stopped from working they still are expected to pay for their food, medicine, gasoline, car payments, and rent or mortgages."

Federal assistance funds and state unemployment payments are insufficient to cover those costs "And many of our residents will not be receiving any of these government benefits," the report continued. "A piling up of back rent/mortgages will put thousands of our residents into deep debt and more homelessness."

A similar proposal that came before the San Jose City Council was rejected, but the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, a legal advocacy organization, maintains that such a law is allowable under the state constitution.

The foundation said in a letter that "when there is a public health emergency, the California Constitution provides cities with broad emergency powers to protect the life and property of its residents."

The foundation also cites a March 16 executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom that it said "grants cities additional powers to take actions that prevent homelessness. It is clearly established law that regulating the price of goods, including rent, fall within these emergency powers."

The Richmond council meeting will be held via teleconference starting at 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on KCRT - Comcast Channel 28 or AT&T Uverse Channel 99.

A lvestream will also be available online.