The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion on Tuesday that would extend a pandemic-era eviction moratorium until the end of March.
Several protections for renters have been changed and extended by the board since the beginning of the pandemic and included rent assistance for tenants, grants for landlords and restrictions on eviction.
Tuesday’s motion was passed 3-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger being the only dissenting vote. Barger’s office stated there were several reasons why she voted against extending the moratorium, with one being that it simply did not do enough for landlords and that COVID-era emergency protections aren’t necessary at this point in the pandemic.
“She really believes that… COVID isn’t impacting people’s ability to work. She’s heard loud and clear from many small ‘mom and pop’ landowners in particular,” said Helen Chavez, spokeswoman for Barger. “A big focal point [is] they’re losing their properties. There was a danger of having to sell and therefore exiting the housing market and that’s a bad thing that also adds to homelessness.”
Barger’s position is in stark contrast to the motion’s language, authored by Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Hilda Solis, which attributed its necessity to the current homelessness crisis and a possible recession in the future — a scenario acknowledged in the motion. The motion, and its authors, argued that if a recession were to happen, the local homeless services system does not have the tools to fully prevent a rise in homelessness — and it never has.
“There are still many families and individuals in the county who are struggling to recover from the financial impacts of COVID 19 and we know that we’re not just recovering from the compounded impacts of COVID-19, we’re recovering from an unjust system that existed long before COVID-19 and risked people’s housing — which has contributed to the growing homelessness crisis,” said Horvath. “Whether that be the impacts from losing a job completely, reduced wages or the need to care for sick family members, many of these impacts are still here with us. And for many individuals who are still struggling, homelessness is unfortunately a next potential step if we don’t take further action to help those who are most at risk.”
Barger responded to this by questioning the justification for extending the moratorium, saying that at first it was “under the guise of COVID” and believed, down the road, it will be “under the guise of emergency order for the homeless crisis.” Barger also said the motion aimed “to vilify the industry based on a few bad actors” and expressed concerns regarding the possible unintended consequences of it.
“I just feel like when I hear ‘eviction moratorium extending,’ it causes me great concern. Because those that are not paying… they’re gonna go into deeper debt,” said Barger. “This has got to be a balanced approach because we’ve got to recognize that the landlords serve a purpose, too. They’re housing individuals right now, but they deserve to be paid.”
Barger said she heard multiple stories from her constituents detailing how these funds aren’t accessible and that direct compensation into landowners’ pockets would make more sense, rather than the motion’s proposal to allocate funds to programs that would then disperse the money.
The motion initially directed the county CEO to allocate $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to Stay Housed LA and to the new non-mortgage Small Landlord Assistance Program — the latter of which will provide up to $30,000 directly to landlords, upon the condition they will not evict an unpaid tenant if they accept the funds.
Chavez said Barger contented the amount of money given to landlords should be higher.
“Programmatically, other models, there’s been problems,” said Chavez. “Her field offices have gotten calls from landlords saying, ‘Hey, these other program models didn’t work. We never saw the money.’”
Barger proposed her own motion that would raise the amount from $5 million to $45 million — creating a countywide relief fund for small property owners. It also expanded the eligibility from $30,000 per landlord to $30,000 per unit. Barger’s motion was also passed on Tuesday.