Support for Solano County Emergency Renter Protection Ordinance

Posting here at the request of David Lindsay, for Common Ground California, April 21, 2020

Support for Solano County Emergency Renter Protection Ordinance

San Jose City Council approves emergency ordinance barring ...

According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, nearly 30,000 families in Solano County were one paycheck away from financial ruin before the Covid19 crisis.

Common Ground has heard stories from hundreds of such families in our 11 member congregations and non-profit institutions across Napa and Solano Counties. Landlords need relief, but renters and the homeless are under immediate threat to their survival.

While recent state actions will prevent evictions during the emergency period and for 90 days after, there could still be a tsunami of evictions afterwards, triggering a flood of homelessness and a public health disaster. To prevent this, we should treat unpaid rent during this time like any other consumer debt, such as utility and credit card bills, and guarantee renters the opportunity for a payment plan.

Requests for food and rental assistance at local agencies like Catholic Charities and Society of St. Vincent DePaul have already skyrocketed. The families in our congregations who miss two months of rent at even a modest $2,000 per month will need an extra $4,000 to pay it back; even 90 days afterwards, it’s simply unrealistic to expect that they will have the money to pay.

Common Ground CaliforniaCommon Ground has been working with tenant attorneys and county staff to research and draft a common-sense county ordinance providing a 12-month grace period for repaying rent and prohibiting late fees. This ordinance, modeled after successful ordinances in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, would allow individual tenants and landlords to work out a payment schedule so families can stay in their homes, and landlords can become whole, using whatever resources and state aid become available. We also advocate suspending late fees and utility fees, which legal services organizations report that some unscrupulous companies are using as a back-door grounds for eviction.

Finally, we call on the county to staff a bilingual hotline for tenants and landlords, and to keep this hotline available after the crisis subsides. Hotlines in Contra Costa and San Mateo Counties are reporting high call volume, with landlords and tenants both in need of its services.

While state action is needed to enhance the existing mortgage forbearance for landlords, our county has the power to protect renters, and should do so. Burned into our nation’s collective memory are photos of Great-Depression-era shanty towns, where even middle-income earners evicted from their homes were forced to live in squalor on the outskirts of American cities. Many of the “essential workers” currently laboring at personal risk to their own health to keep our food supply intact, and staff our medical facilities, are renters. Protecting them will provide more stability post-COVID, both for individuals and the local economy. With unemployment in Solano County currently at 10%, and with some predicting that the national rate will reach 30%, higher than the highest rate during the Depression, let’s make sure that the photos left behind for posterity from this crisis will not show our neighbors sheltered in sprawling, unsanitary tent cities in our county, on our watch.

Common Ground Member Institutions:
St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church, Vallejo, CA
St. Basil the Great Catholic Church, Vallejo, CA
First Christian Church of Vallejo, Vallejo, CA
United in Grace Lutheran Church, Vallejo, CA
Congregation B’Nai Israel, Vallejo, CA
Vallejo Education Association, Vallejo, CA
Napa Valley Unitarian Universalists, Napa, CA
Napa Valley Lutheran Church, Napa, CA
Holy Spirit Catholic Church, Fairfield, CA
Fairfield Suisun Teachers Association, Fairfield, CA
St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, Vallejo, CA
Supporting Affiliate: Emmanuel Temple Apostolic Church, Vallejo, CA

United Food and Commercial Workers–Local 5
Napa Solano Central Labor Council
Catholic Charities of Yolo Solano
Vallejo Together
Fr. Blaise Berg, St. Mary’s Catholic Church