A bill that would establish a statewide eviction defense program for renters with financial trouble was passed by the Assembly on Friday.
Assembly Bill 1487, authored by Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), would create a “Homeless Prevention Fund” that would be administered by the Legal Services Trust Fund Commission, a state bar run grant administration that funds nonprofit civil legal aid services. According to AB 1487, the commission, would distribute grants, based on a competitive basis, to fund prescribed legal services, education, and outreach for tenants relating to eviction or displacement. The bill would require the commission to develop guidelines for the grant process in accordance with specified requirements. The bill would establish eligibility requirements for grant applicants, including that the applicant agrees to provide all of the services funded by the grant without charge to recipients.
In addition, AB 1487 would prohibit a grantee from using more than 15% of the allocation to be used for administrative costs in the first year of receiving the grant, and 10% for each year afterwards. An amendment made in March increased both amount by 5% after concerns from eviction organizations and non-profits that they would not be able to cover the costs of the services with the original respective 10% and 5% amounts.
Assemblyman Gabriel wrote the bill earlier this year to prevent displacement and homelessness amongst renters in California who may face eviction when the eviction moratorium ends on June 30th. Specifically, Gabriel has noted that he wants to avoid a large wave of evictions due to the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lull in paid rents across the state that has resulted in 1 out of 7 tenants nationwide being behind on rent. AB 1487 closely follows similar legislation in Washington state and Maryland, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. It would also build on the proposed $60 million that Governor Gavin Newsom added to the May revised budget that goes to legal aid services for renters and homeowners to avoid eviction in the next three years.
“Preventing evictions is key to addressing our homelessness crisis, particularly given the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable renters,” said Assemblyman Gabriel. “This effort will leverage existing programs to address one of the root causes of the current crisis and help prevent homelessness before it begins. It builds upon an approach that has been proven to protect vulnerable communities, reduce homelessness, save taxpayer resources, and improve the fairness and efficiency of our judicial system.”
In addition to many lawmakers, over 50 non-profits and community efforts have thrown their support behind AB 1487 since the bill was introduced earlier this year.
Opposition against AB 1487
However, a large number of housing and community organizations have come out against the bill, with many landlord groups noting that the bill’s passage would only end up hurting both renters and landlords.
“A lot of landlords have not received payments since the moratorium was put in place last year,” Simone Pasqual, a San Jose lawyer who represents many landlords in the lower Bay area, told the Globe on Friday. “These landlords pay for lawyers like us and give even more money just to get their apartments back, as well as rent if they can. But this bill just rewards the tenants not paying by getting free lawyers, advice , and a whole slew of other expensive help.”
“They say it’s about evening the odds, but all it is doing is giving them more free rent while landlords suffer. And a lot of landlords are just independent people not making much of a profit to begin with, so it’s just hurting average people even more as a result. And come July, they’ll still be out. It’s not just renters who are vulnerable. Everyone is.”
AB 1487 was passed by a 58-17 vote largely on party lines. While there were exceptions based on party affiliation, such as Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) voting for the bill, the voting mainly followed the voting trend from Committee votes earlier this year.
AB 1487 is expected to be heard in Senate Committees in the next several weeks.
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