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Additional rent relief not enough, advocates demand long-term solutions

Concord

Additional rent relief not enough, advocates demand long-term solutions

Concord, California – Although potential steps to provide additional relief to local renters at a special City Council meeting on June 30 are welcome, housing advocates say it is a Band-Aid for problems that demand long-term solutions.

That meeting will mainly include discussions about extending the current COVID-19-related eviction moratorium and rent rise caps through September or later. Actions on these issues would be done by emergency ordinances if at least four council members approved them.

“We are going to have one shot at this,” said Councilmember Edi Birsan. He has been a staunch ally of tenant concerns over the years.

These relief issues currently serve the needs of tenants affected by COVID-19. Housing advocates, however, want the city’s relief to serve all tenants – suggesting they are all feeling the lingering economic effects of the global pandemic.

Factors influencing where individual council members will land on the featured items may include how long these relief issues are allowed to remain in place and how much liability they want the city to shoulder if landlords take action over the losses they have sustained.

Tenant issues

Councilmember Carlyn Obringer has added her voice to those of Vice Mayor Dominic Aliano and Birsan, who have placed increased focus on tenant issues.

“My main focus right now is to ensure that people remain housed while they await the rental funding relief that the state has promised but has been slow to get it into the hands of those who need it,” she said.

“The council directed the Housing and Economic Development Committee to hold a meeting to learn more about the issue of harassment,” she added. “I have also let five tenants in my district who reached out to me about this topic know that I am available to meet with them to learn more about their experiences and concerns.”

Eduardo Torres, the northern regional coordinator with the housing advocate group Tenants Together, called it “a very dire situation for those folks who have lost income and are faced with back rent and eviction from landlords who are not so forgiving.”

“You should be able to feel secure that you have a roof over your head and are not coming home to feeling the anxiety from the landlords who are threatening eviction,” Torres noted.

Fairness

While some tenants in the community are feeling the hardships, more than 80 percent of renters have actually been able to weather the last 15 months and keep up with their payments thanks to landlords who have worked out programs with their tenants, according to Mayor Tim McGallian.

He acknowledged the desire to do more for tenants. But he added that in serving the needs of one side in the housing debate, fairness to the other side is required, too. He cited landlords, for example, who need protection for their interests when dealing with disruptive tenants.

As housing advocates continue pressing for more long-term policies, McGallian hopes these individuals will continue their efforts to make sure tenants are using the resources that Concord’s Housing Division has in place that serve landlords and tenants alike.

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