Constituent policy

Many California tenants fear eviction despite increased help

With the state’s eviction ban set to end on June 30, nearly 1.5 million California renters are behind on their rent payments, and more than 600,000 of them believe they are very or somewhat likely to be deported in the next two months, according to recent Census Bureau surveys. As it has done in many other areas, the pandemic has exposed vast inequalities in housing security.

Overall, about one in seven adult renters in California report being behind on their rent, a share that hasn’t changed much during the pandemic. Californians who have been economically impacted by the pandemic are much more likely than others to be behind. Specifically, renters who lost employment income in the month prior to the census survey were almost three times more likely to be late than other renters (27% versus 10%). Low-income renters (those with household incomes below $25,000) are five times more likely than high-income renters ($75,000 or more) to be behind on rent (21% vs. 4% ). And black, Latino and Asian renters are more likely to be late than white renters (17% vs. 11%).

University graduates have largely avoided economic and employment hardship – they are often able to work remotely and have relatively high salaries. These tenants are much less likely (7%) to be behind on rent.

Catching up will not be easy for most of those who have not paid their rent; a large majority (73%) are at least two months late and 27% are five months or more late. These tenants are particularly pessimistic about their future housing prospects. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of tenants who are at least two months behind on their rent believe it is somewhat or very likely that they will be evicted.

California rental markets have been among the most expensive in the country for many years. In 2019, 26% of California renters spent more than half of their income on housing, compared to just 22% in the rest of the country. Five of the six most expensive rental markets in the country are in California (the only other market is New York).

figure - Average rents are high in most California metropolitan areas

While Bay Area rents haven’t changed much during the pandemic, rents have increased significantly in much of the rest of the state. Domestic markets that used to be affordable have become much less so. Now, only Bakersfield has lower average rents than the rest of the country.

figure - Rents in interior areas have increased significantly during the pandemic

Policies and programs to help overwhelmed tenants — and pay landlords — have helped. Since April 19, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) had distributed $2.8 billion in federal COVID emergency rent assistance to 252,000 renter households (a dramatic increase from the $0.6 billion distributed to 50,000 renters as of September 21, 2021) . And tenants with pending requests for assistance are protected from eviction until June. Some of the state’s largest counties, including San Diego, Sacramento, Fresno and Riverside, have implemented their own tenant assistance programs, so the number of recipients is likely much higher.

Even though aid has increased, many still struggle to pay their rent. While HCD reports having received 500,000 applications for assistance, census surveys reveal that the majority (55%) of Californians who were behind on rent as of mid-March had not applied. (The application deadline was March 31.) Many of those who applied were waiting to hear if their applications would be approved.

Housing is an essential part of California’s economic recovery and the well-being of its residents. Large increases in California’s lower-priced rental markets are of particular concern, as tenants in these markets typically have lower incomes than those in more expensive coastal markets. (For example, tenants in San Francisco pay a much lower share of their income on rent than tenants in Fresno.) When the state’s eviction moratorium fully expires at the end of June, tenants and landlords will enter a difficult new phase of the pandemic. -achieve impact.