New city program makes millions available for rental assistance

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The Santa Clarita City Council unanimously approved Tuesday establishing a financial assistance program for the city’s low- and moderate-income renters. Residents seeking support with paying their rent must apply with the city during a 30-day application period starting April 1.  

During a brief discussion at Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor Bill Miranda emphasized the importance of reaching out to Santa Clarita residents with limited access to public information. 

“There are a lot of people in need who don’t get to the (city’s) website, who don’t get to City Hall, who don’t read the newspapers,” Mayor Miranda said. “We’re trying to get to people in need and the people in need don’t have access to us.” 

In a statement from the city, Miranda acknowledged the difficulty of the past year. 

“For those who have not been able to pay their rent due to impacts of the pandemic, this program will help them get back on their feet, and more importantly, stay in their homes,” Miranda said. 

City staff assured Miranda and council members that the city is “strategizing on outreach efforts” to spread the word about the $6.3 million in federal funding now available through the city. 

“One thing we’re also leveraging is our nonprofits,” said Michael Villegas, a city management analyst. Villegas shared program information with Santa Clarita Community Taskforce on Homelessness Wednesday morning. 

The city published a webpage explaining program details, including eligibility, on Wednesday. Interested residents can visit, email [email protected] or call 661-286-4143 for more information.  

“Landlord participation is a critical component of the program,” according to the city’s webpage. “Landlords are encouraged to submit a landlord application (available April 1, 2021) to begin the vetting process.”  

An additional $6.8 million in state funding is also available to city residents through a process administered by the state of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development. City Council members declined last month to administer state funding.  

The city is drafting an agreement with HCD to ensure state funding reaches residents. 

“The current plan is for the city’s program to focus on rental assistance with the state focusing on rental assistance for unwilling landlords and utility arrears,” Villegas told the council. “Eligible residents can receive direct payments of up to 25% of unpaid back rent they owe when landlords are unwilling to participate, and utility arrears are eligible for up to 100% coverage through the state’s program.” 

The application period for state funding opened March 15. Santa Clarita applicants can apply, but will have their applications placed on hold until the city and state have signed an agreement detailing each agency’s responsibilities.  

Villegas told The Signal he expects to provide a draft of the agreement to the city attorney on Friday. The agreement must go to the city manager, who has the authority to approve it, before being sent to HCD. 

Villegas added the agreement plans to ensure residents can get assistance through the state once city funds have been exhausted. The city must obligate 65% of federal funds by Sept. 30 and all funds by Dec. 31. 

Last year, 215 of the 922 Santa Clarita residents who inquired with Los Angeles County about its rental assistance program received aid from the county program, according to county data provided to the city.   

Santa Clarita is the last of the five most populous cities in Los Angeles County to establish its own emergency rental assistance program to aid tenants who have fallen behind on their rent due to the pandemic.  

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