OPINION: Eviction moratorium extension would create hardship for both renters and landlords

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Mike Murchison, founder and president of Murchison Consulting, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

Once again the Long Beach City Council will have the opportunity to address a growing problem in our community. On Tuesday, July 7, the council will hear a report from our city attorney (Agenda Item 26) that requests policy direction to either extend the eviction moratorium or let it expire on July 31.

Remember, many unemployed renters have been fortunate enough to receive unemployment benefits from the state and federal government that, in many cases, is greater than what they were earning while working. Sadly, non-paying renters are continuing to grow, making it difficult for housing providers to pay mortgages, property taxes and maintenance that is necessary to keep buildings operating. Many housing providers are forced to cut back all non-essential services as no substantial relief or help has been offered to them since the start of the pandemic.

Maintenance providers are critical to our community because buildings would deteriorate without their services. These local tradespeople rely heavily on income derived from housing providers. Long Beach has a critical policy decision to make on Tuesday to extend the eviction moratorium one or two months or let it expire at the end of this month, the latter being the best option for the city in general. Should the council extend the moratorium, it may be perceived that there is a lack of interest on the city’s part to help housing providers collect much needed rents that are necessary to keep buildings in good operating condition, prevent potential loss of their investment or reduce income derived from the buildings by retirees. In other words, this would be the wrong message to send to those individuals with a vested interest in the overall success of our entire community.

Tenants rights groups such as Legal Aid, LiBRE, and Housing LB may claim that renters will be evicted if the moratorium expires. Fortunately, the California Judicial Council has not changed its position and has established that there will be no “unlawful detainer” hearings held in any civil court in California until 90 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom has lifted the state of emergency, which may occur as late as next year. If the mayor and councilmembers Mary Zendejas, Jeannine Pearce, Roberto Uranga and Rex Richardson prefer to place Long Beach in further economic peril, they should extend the moratorium, helping to create more hardships for both renters and housing providers. Why is that such a problem? Well, it provides implied permission to renters that they don’t have to pay rent and it kicks the can down the road to deal with a much greater problem in August or September of 2021 when all of the deferred rent becomes due and payable. Unfortunately, this is bad policy.

Tenants rights groups will also try and point out that we have a rental assistance program. We do, however, renters must apply and will only receive a benefit if their income is less than 80% of the area median income. This means that the majority of renters in our city will not qualify and housing providers will receive little to nothing from the program.

All this means is that it’s time for renters to keep up their contractual obligation to the housing providers. We support a one-twelfth payment option of the deferred rent program that would not start until Sept. 1,  giving renters ample time to prepare when the ban expires on July 31. We are all in this together and prefer not to witness a more destructive housing crisis for renters and housing providers in 2021. Should the moratorium be extended, we will likely see more evictions and foreclosures in the near future. It’s important that we work together to get the city back on the road to recovery by allowing the moratorium to expire on July 31, 2020. It’s good policy and the right thing to do for everyone.

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