Sustainable State and Federally-funded COVID-19 Rent and Mortgage Relief

June 30, 2020

Office of Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry
San Diego City Council
District 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a financial emergency that has put thousands of San Diegans out of work through no fault of their own, which is why I support a funded COVID-19 rent moratorium extension.

I understand and sympathize with the challenges many of our residents are facing, and today the Council was asked to vote to extend an eviction ordinance that doesn’t solve the problem. The amount of money it would take to maintain a functioning local housing market over 3 or 6 months is light years beyond the city’s financial capacity, so while I wholeheartedly support a fully funded program that we can enforce, this isn’t it.

I voted for the initial moratorium to get us past the immediate crisis, and expressed at the time that this could not go on indefinitely. I support the rental assistance fund, yet we know this won’t address the full scope of this problem. Without rent payments or mortgage payment relief, entire apartment complexes could be shuttered and renters put out on the streets or living in apartments that aren’t properly maintained. By itself, our city can not enforce or fund an eviction moratorium or rent or mortgage forgiveness that continues for months.

I can not vote yes on a promise we know we can’t keep. I want to do things that are real, and a longer-term eviction ban without funding isn’t real. It will fail, and the people most at risk will be hurt the worst.

To be clear, there will be no evictions in July. The Governor’s existing executive order prohibits evictions statewide through the end of July, and the courts will likely not be processing evictions for at least another 90 days.

This is an area in which the state must take the lead—first in instituting a policy that is uniform throughout the state, and, in partnership with the federal government, providing the financial support to make relief sustainable. The state can do this through the Department of Housing and Community Development. The federal government can do it through directed stimulus funding.

The state and federal governments must act to stabilize the entire chain of capital that stands behind the mortgage market. The state has both the tools and sufficient borrowing capacity to negotiate a “no eviction” plan that can hold up through this crisis. I will support a resolution calling on the State and the Feds to act.

Supporting the language in the ordinance in front of us today sets us on a path toward a much larger crisis impacting our entire housing market. We need to be honest with people about the limits of our authority and our financial capacity, which is why I voted “no” on this ordinance.

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