(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supervisors call for rent relief funds to target small landlords, affordable housing providers

With $54.4 million in federal rent relief funds to distribute, several San Francisco supervisors are urging The City to prioritize small landlords and affordable housing providers and their tenants.

San Francisco will begin offering rent assistance next month to low-income tenants with unstable housing due to the pandemic. But in the absence of sufficient resources to fill demand, six supervisors have co-sponsored a resolution pushing large landlords to negotiate directly with their tenants to ensure smaller landlords and affordable housing providers obtain relief from The City.

A Budget and Legislative Analyst report from October estimated unpaid rents in The City totaled $81.3 million to $196.2 million between April and September 2020 alone.

These corporate landlords also have the ability to track new funding opportunities, and how to access them,” said Supervisor Connie Chan, a resolution co-sponsor, at a committee hearing on Monday. “If we don’t prioritize these rent relief resources for mom and pop landlords who are already struggling to get by, there is a huge risk that not only will their tenants be displaced, but also that the small landlords go under, and they will be bought out by large corporate landlords — which further hurts tenants.”

Tenants making less than 80 percent of Area Median Income, or $71,700 for a household of one, who attest to coronavirus-related financial difficulties may receive payments to assist with up to six months of back rent under the program run by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

The San Francisco residents who have received rental assistance from The City so far have been largely Black and brown, extremely and very low income and households with children. Many of them are formerly homelesses or don’t primarily speak English at home.

San Francisco directly controls $26.2 million in relief funds, while state officials manage the rest. A memorandum of understanding is under way to share data and avoid duplicating relief for the same households, said Eric Shaw, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.

Under the terms of Senate Bill 91, landlords that agree to waive 20 percent of unpaid rent between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 can be reimbursed for the remaining amount. If landlords decline to participate, eligible tenants can receive 25 percent of their unpaid rent during that time.

California’s eviction moratorium, panned by many tenant organizers, expires on June 30.

“In order for us to require more concessions from landlords, we need true eviction moratorium to take evictions off the table, period,” said Supervisor Dean Preston, another co-sponsor of the resolution. “We could make that money go so much further.”

The Land Use and Transportation Committee forwarded the resolution to the full Board of Supervisors for a vote on Tuesday. Tenants can apply to the state rent relief program at housing.ca.gov. MOHCD will launch a program website in May.

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