Acting Gov. Eleni Kounalakis passes bill to extend eviction protection

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Acting Gov. Eleni Kounalakis signs AB 2179, a bill that extends eviction protections for Californians in rental assistance programs, into law.

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Acting Gov. Eleni Kounalakis became the first woman in California’s history to sign a piece of legislation into law when she signed AB 2179 Thursday, extending eviction protections for Californians in rental assistance programs.

The bill, which was authored by Assemblymember Tim Grayson, D-Concord, and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, ensures housing stability for eligible tenants through June 30, given that they applied for assistance by March 31, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“California’s nation-leading rent relief program has provided much needed relief for more than 220,000 households across the state,” Kounalakis said in the press release. “Today’s action will provide additional time to thousands more who are in the process of acquiring emergency relief.”

AB 2179 follows a slew of preexisting eviction moratoriums placed by local governments such as Alameda, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board vice chair Soli Alpert.

Alpert added that the local protections were stronger and more extensive than the state’s.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín also noted the bill preempts many of these moratoriums, prohibiting local action over the following months. However, he added that Alameda County’s moratorium predates the state’s original proposal, allowing it to be grandfathered into the bill.

“Over and over, we’ve seen the state preempt stronger tenant protections in local jurisdictions,” said City Councilmember Rigel Robinson in an email. “One step forward, two steps back. At the end of the day, we need more renters in the state legislature.”

Alpert said the bill was intended to be a compromise between tenants and landlords.

However, according to Alpert, California’s legislature is largely constituted of landlords, with only two people representing tenants.

“(Tenants) were not at the table for negotiations and they were not included in those conversations,” Alpert said.

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner John Selawsky voiced his support for the bill, noting it provides both tenants and landlords with the opportunity to claim financial relief. He added the bill protects tenants who may have faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Dan Lindheim, a campus public policy professor, noted the bill is applicable only to people who had already applied for rent relief, but had not received it due to backlogged processing by the state.

“In the short term, all State and Federal funds that have been allocated for rent relief need to reach those in need,” Lindheim said in an email. “Despite the urgency, counties have been insanely slow in processing these funds.”

Lindheim added the state should also accelerate the creation of new affordable housing and jobs that pay livable wages in order to equitably provide for tenants.

Contact Kavya Gupta at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.