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California Proposes Extension Of Eviction Moratoriam

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Nearly 6 million Americans are behind on their rent, according to the National Equity Atlas. And California is close to assisting hundreds of thousands of renters who've fallen behind on rent due to the pandemic. A deal reached by Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders extends the state's eviction ban through September and covers missed rent going back to April of last year. Molly Solomon of member station KQED has details.

MOLLY SOLOMON, BYLINE: The deal comes just days before California's eviction protections were set to expire. The new plan includes an increase in the amount of money the state would pay to clear rent owed to landlords instead of the current 80%. The state is proposing to pay all of the missed rent. An estimated 750,000 California renters are behind on payments. Governor Gavin Newsom says this bill will prevent them from falling off an eviction cliff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GAVIN NEWSOM: The state of California has now agreed with the legislature to the largest and most comprehensive renter protection deal in the United States.

SOLOMON: The announcement also buys the state more time to distribute pandemic-related rent relief. The state has been slow to spend more than $5 billion in federal rent assistance. So far, California says it's paid out less than 10% of money applied for. San Francisco lawmaker David Chiu chairs the Assembly Housing Committee.

DAVID CHIU: What it means is they have a little bit more time to apply immediately for the billions of dollars of financial assistance that's available to them.

SOLOMON: The delay has been equally frustrating for landlords, says Tom Bannon, president of the California Apartment Association. Many have now gone over a year without getting rent payments, but their bills have still come due.

TOM BANNON: Still having to pay the mortgage, still having to pay the insurance, still having to pay maintenance costs, still having to pay taxes. And some of them are having a very, very difficult time hanging on.

SOLOMON: Between now and the end of September, says tenant advocate Brian Augusta, California needs to move faster to get the money to those who need it.

BRIAN AUGUSTA: Otherwise, we're going to be back having the same conversation about extending these protections further in order to make sure that we don't have a wave of evictions while we've got money sitting in the bank that could help avert a disaster.

SOLOMON: An eviction disaster that could make the state's homeless crisis even worse than it is today. For NPR News, I'm Molly Solomon in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF ERLEND OYE AND LA COMITIVA'S "ALTIPLANO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.