CA eviction protection bill sparks opposition

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AB 2179 has a preemption clause that disallows local communities from passing additional protections for their residents until July 1, 2022, leaving almost one in four residents unprotected by the bill, according to Leah Simon-Weisberg, chair of the Berkeley Rent Board.

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California tenants who have already applied for the state’s rental assistance program cannot be evicted if they’ve applied before March 31, states AB 2179, a bill approved by the California State Assembly on Monday.

AB 2179 extends emergency COVID-19 tenant protections through June 30. A preemption clause in the legislation, which will affect residents based on which city they live in, has sparked opposition from some city officials.

“(AB 2179) is deeply flawed,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, chair of the Berkeley Rent Board.

If individuals are unable to pay April’s rent past the Thursday deadline, no additional protection will be granted, according to Simon-Weisberg. However, she added local jurisdictions usually have the power to pass eviction moratoriums as additional protection for their residents.

AB 2179, however, has a preemption clause that disallows local communities from passing additional protections for their residents until July 1, 2022, according to Simon-Wiesberg. Protections that were enacted after Aug. 19, 2020, will also be delayed.

The preemption clause, Senator Scott Weiner and Assemblymember Phil Ting said in a joint statement, is a “fatal flaw” in the bill. One in four tenants in California will not be safeguarded by the legislation as a result of the clause, Simon-Wiesberg said. San Francisco, Fresno and almost the entirety of Los Angeles County are among jurisdictions that will face restrictions, Simon-Weisberg said. Weiner and Ting called this discrepancy in tenant aid between jurisdictions “playing favorites.”

A few jurisdictions, including Berkeley, “acted quickly,” as they passed moratoriums before the August cutoff, according to Simon-Wiesberg. As such, she said, Berkeley tenants will still be protected.

As tenants are left ineligible for protection from state and local laws, Simon-Weisberg said communities are faced with addressing and mitigating increased houselessness with little to no support from the state.

“The state is saying ‘Nope, not only are we not going to protect anybody after April 1st, but you don’t get to either,’ ” Simon-Wiesberg said.

Simon-Wiesberg alleged it was pressure from the real estate industry and large corporate landlords that resulted in the structure and approval of the legislation.

Tenants Together, California’s statewide organization for renters’ rights, said in a statement that it should not be “arbitrarily forced” to prioritize protections for some tenants while excluding others — a situation it claims will take place as a result of AB 2179.

“The delayed release of Assembly Bill 2179 late last week, and the lack of transparency in its crafting, allowed no reasonable timeline for any feedback and amendments from California tenants and advocates before AB 832 protections expire on March 31,” a Tenants Together press release alleged.

The group says while the bill alleviates stress from some tenants, it also in its current form explicitly prohibits California’s city and county officials from taking steps to solve the larger houselessness crisis.

Contact Lydia Sidhom at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @SidhomLydia .