Eviction moratorium to expire soon, changes anticipated
With California’s eviction moratorium set to expire June 30, the low-inventory rental housing market may stir with an influx of terminated leases.
Much like the real estate market, rental listings are few and good properties are snatched up by people looking for a new home. (Afterall, the pandemic’s restrictions have emphasized the importance of one’s living space.)
“The demand for rental housing is very very high. Usually, we have 40 or 50 vacant properties to rent, and right now we are down to just nine,” Bob Bartlein, president of property management company Bartlein & Company, Inc., told the News-Press. “Once a property becomes available, it goes immediately.”
The average rent in Santa Barbara has risen 4% over the past year, according to RentCafe.
Countywide, the median rent has risen almost 10%, based on Apartment List data. Nationally, rent has risen 5.4% over the past year.
Apartment List tracked a dip in the median rent nationally in 2020, with the biggest decrease in large cities.
Santa Barbara County’s median rent continued its trajectory, with data that doesn’t show a global pandemic’s weight. Whereas rates dipped nationally, Santa Barbara County was consistent.
Kenneth Trigueiro, CEO and president of People’s Self-Help Housing, has received more calls for emergency housing during the pandemic.
PSHH is a nonprofit housing organization and provides affordable housing and support services for low-income families and individuals. It manages 2,000 units across San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties and has a waiting list of 4,000 applications in Santa Barbara County.
Mr. Trigueiro noticed the largest increase in applications from single-parent households.
In Santa Barbara, those earning the city’s median income of $63,070 must spend 32% of their income to pay the median rent for a studio apartment, according to the city’s 2021 rental housing survey. The recommended percentage is 30%.
The pandemic trimmed back the hours of workers in hospitality, retail and other customer-facing positions. Rent became even more difficult for these individuals.
“Some of the highest needs have been for rental assistance due to losses of jobs or income resulting from dramatically reduced work hours, as well as utility assistance, food assistance, employment assistance and mental/physical health needs,” Mr. Trigueiro.
“Rent and financial assistance have always been important, but there are higher needs now,” he said.
PSHH expanded its learning centers to help its 600 students cope with the demands of online learning. It also partnered with school districts to deliver meals to the kids.
The effects will likely linger, Mr. Trigueiro said.
“For our residents, it seems some may struggle with childcare over a longer term. In addition, we do have some families whose income had been reduced for months, and I imagine they may have a hard time getting back to normal and growing from there,” he said.
Legislators are aware of challenges and have begun to hypothesize ways to ease tenants’ frustrations.
In August, Santa Barbara City councilmembers Meagan Harmon and Kristen Sneddon introduced the Community Stabilization Policy Initiative, which would limit annual rent increases to 2%. In years where the Consumer Price Index decreases, landlords would not be able to raise rent.
The idea is far from being signed into law, and the state’s regulations already restrict drastic increases — which perhaps kept Santa Barbara County rent stable throughout the pandemic’s challenges.
The California Tenant Protection Act of 2019, or Assembly Bill 1482, impedes rent from climbing above 10% or 5% plus the annual consumer price index, whichever is lower.
The consumer price index rose 4% over the past 12 months in California, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.
But many properties are exempt from AB 1482, like properties built within the last 15 years and single-family properties owned by individuals. Landlords must specify in writing if their property is exempt from AB 1482.
Property owners are more upset about AB 1482 than the pandemic’s eviction moratorium, said Mr. Bartlein.
The recent laws have made business difficult for landlords, and a few have quit. But many of the property owners that work with Mr. Bartlein have persisted.
In December, California lawmakers approved $2.6 billion to be paid in rental assistance. Low-income tenants can apply to get 80% of their debt paid if their landlord agrees to forfeit the remaining 20%.
But a survey published late last month by Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, Housing Now! and Policy Link reveals that tenants are having trouble accessing those funds.
The result could be a high number of evictions on July 1, including people who sought the state’s assistance.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan to double the rental and utility assistance program as part of the 2021-2022 budget under review by lawmakers. His proposal includes paying 100% of back rent instead of 80%.
The state legislature is expected to vote on the state budget today with alterations and trailer bills in coming weeks.