Council passes $100,000 renter relief program

The council passed a modified relief program for Claremont renters facing no-fault evictions, but it stopped short of an emergency ordinance banning those types of evictions in the city.

The temporary program allocates $100,000 from the city’s successor housing fund toward Claremont families who are facing an eviction without just cause in the before AB 1482 goes into effect.

AB 1482, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, caps rent increases to just five percent plus the consumer price index per year, and prohibits no-fault evictions—meaning evictions that are without just cause. But housing advocates noticed a legal loophole: landlords could hike up rents or evict tenants in the few months before the law takes effect on January 1.

In response, cities like Pomona and South Pasadena have already passed emergency ordinances banning no-fault evictions. Residents have lobbied the city council to pass a similar ordinance to protect low-income renters in Claremont.

This program is not an emergency ban. City Attorney Alisha Patterson explained that an emergency ordinance would require a finding or an urgency to support it. Pomona, for instance, identified tenants who were being removed through no-fault evictions, but the same wasn’t seen in Claremont, she said.

“We did not have, to our knowledge, any tenants who received those notices, or if they did, they didn’t bring them to our attention,” Ms. Patterson said. “In Claremont, under those circumstances, it would have been very difficult for us to justify an urgency finding.”

To qualify, an applicant must reside in Claremont, have received a no-fault eviction from their landlord in November or December, and are currently homeless or would be homeless without the city’s assistance, Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson explained.

Applicants would have to provide written documentation of their eviction, as well as documents showing household income and the number of people in the family who are living in the unit. Those who don’t qualify as low-income would not be considered.

The new rental unit the applicant finds must be in Claremont, Mr. Paulson said, and must be at least comparable in size to the previous apartment. Once the tenant and the new landlord reach an agreement, the city will provide first and last month’s rent directly to the landlord. Proof of the new lease agreement must be sent to the city.

Applications for the program can be found at city hall, the Hughes Center, the Joslyn Center and the Blaisdell Senior Center, as well as on the city’s website.

Given that we are nearly halfway through December, applicants would have had only a few days before holiday break to reach out to the city for help. This struck a chord with some public commenters, including Karen Rosenthal, who said the idea was “well-intentioned” but questioned how an applicant could gather all that information in only a few days.

“Maybe this is just a lot of hoo-haa over nothing that should have been done two months ago in anticipation of the need,” she said.

Ms. Patterson suggested that the program could be re-worked to say that in order to be eligible, one has to be served a no-fault eviction notice within the time frame, as opposed to applying to the city before December 31.

In his motion to approve the program, Mr. Calaycay added a sunset date of March 1, 2020, giving those affected more time to reach out to the city.

Rachel Forester also noted during public comment that the plan was a step in the right direction, but said her immediate response was “that nobody involved in preparing this seems to know what it’s like to find an apartment.”

“If losing your apartment has left you homeless, finding an apartment in Claremont you can afford probably isn’t going to happen,” Ms. Forester said. “The reason these evictions are happening is because the apartments, the affordable ones, are going away. Once you’ve lost it, there’s fewer out there. You’re not going to just turn around and find the next affordable one; they’re not there.”

Eve Kaufman of Inclusive Claremont said three families have reached out to her group after they were served no-fault eviction notices, despite the city’s claim that none exist. One family has already moved out of the city, she said.

Mr. Calaycay asked for those families’ contact information to possibly assist them.

The council passed the modified program unanimously. Mr. Schroeder defended the timeline for this program, and urged those in attendance to get the word out about this program.

“So it’s not that we’re trying to be slow, it’s that it does take time to develop these sort of programs,” he said.

This was the last city council meeting of 2019. The next meeting will take place on January 14.

—Matthew Bramlett



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