Gioia and Glover vote in favor of extension; will expire Sept. 30; rent and utility relief funds for tenants, landlords available
“At some point this has to stop!” – Supervisor Mitchoff
“I think we need to move on. The economy has not improved. I want us to get back to work.” – Board Chair Burgis
By Daniel Borsuk
On a 2 to 3 vote, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday closed the books on its state-backed ordinance banning rent hikes and evictions potentially impacting 3,200 residential and small business tenants unable to make payments because of complications linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would have been the board’s ninth extension of the moratorium. CCC BOS 46990_urgency ordinance – 9th continuation of eviction moratorium
Supervisors John Gioia of Richmond and Federal Glover of Pittsburg voted to retain the program that would have ended through the end of the year, unless extended again.
Previously supervisors had easily passed ordinances without much difficulty, with only District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville usually casting a negative vote like she did again on Tuesday, Supervisors had acted on similar residential and small commercial rent freeze and eviction ban ordinances on April 21, 2020; May 26, 2020; July 14, 2020; Sept. 22, 2020; Nov. 17, 2020; Feb. 2, 2021; March 23, 2021 and June 22, 2021.
Before Tuesday’s vote, supervisors had extended the commercial/residential rental assistance -eviction ban ordinance nine previous times with overwhelming support especially from the hard-hit Latino community, a minority group most impacted by the economic, health and housing ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supervisors Candace Andersen of Danville, a foe of such rent assistance programs, cited how such programs can financially backfire and not fully assist constituents, especially in her district, mostly a high wealth area.
“There are tenants who are abusing the system,” cautioned Pittsburg realtor Wolfgang Croskey. “I know of one tenant who use the money to run another daycare operation. How long is this going to last?”
But Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, who had supported previous ordinances surprised most observers and colleagues saying, “I won’t extend this ordinance. At some point this has to stop!”
Upon casting the swing vote, board chair Diane Burgis of Brentwood said, “I am sympathetic to the folks. It’s not perfect. I think we need to move on. The economy has not improved. I want us to get back to work.”
“A disproportionate rate of people remains worse off,” said Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. “It is possible we’ll run out of this rent relief money. We should extend this moratorium to the end of the year.”
Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said, “I am in agreement to extend this program to the end of the year so that citizens can get relief.”
“Tenants don’t know their rights,” said Debora Ballinger of Monument Impact. “Black and brown single mothers, especially recent immigrants need these protections.”
Monica Thomas, an artist who rents a studio where the landlord wants to raise the rent 23 percent, told supervisors she’s managed to pay her rent from her dwindling savings account.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I don’t want to pay $6,000 in rent.”
Rental, Utility Relief Funds for Tenants, Landlords Available
As of March 15, the county had $75 million in rental assistance available from federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds. The program assists income-qualified renters impacted by COVID-19 who need help to pay for rent or utilities. Eligible household income may not exceed 80% of the local median income.
Eligible renters whose landlords do not participate in the program can still receive 25% of unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021. Eligible renters can also receive future rent assistance equal to 25% of their monthly rent. The program also provides up to 80% rent reimbursement to landlords for unpaid rent accrued between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.
Check eligibility and apply online for COVID-19 Rent Relief and in Spanish Ayuda con la Renta. Tenants and landlords can contact the CA COVID-19 Rent Relief Call Center at 1-833-430-2122 for assistance to apply. To learn more and find state resources, visit Housingiskey.com.
In a related action, supervisors, on a 5-0 vote, approved the county’s proposal to Assembly Bill 832 – Eviction Protections. The state legislation imposes a 2.5 percent cap on rent increases.
85 Percent of County Residents at Least Partially Vaccinated
Eighty five percent of Contra Costa County residents have taken at least one vaccine, supervisors learned from Dr. Sergio Ursuyo, Contra Costa County Medical Center Medical Director, that hospital personnel are becoming increasingly tired from the rising number of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients coming to the Martinez hospital.
“This is our fourth wave,” Dr. Ursuyo said. “We are tired. This is a different type of fatigue.” He said many of the new patients come from out of the county, mainly Central California.
Dr. Ursuyo told supervisors about how a former 61-year-old nurse had recently died of COVID-19 because she was unvaccinated.
“She could have taken the vaccine,” he said. “We could have helped. The vaccine can make this thing go away.”
Some 175,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19, now exceeding the number of Americans who died from the 1918 Spanish Flu remarked Contra Costa Health Services Director Anna Roth.
Contra Costa Public Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano dispelled rumors spread mainly via social media.
“These vaccines do not change your DNA. They are very safe,” he said.
Authorize 2021-2022 Property Tax Rates
Supervisors approved as a consent item the 2021-2022 property rates. For the current fiscal year Auditor-Controller Robert Campbell projects the property rates will generate more than $2.6 billion in property tax revenues. Those funds will be apportioned to the county, cities, schools and other eligible agencies.