Long Beach will look to secure more future federal funding to expand its current rental assistance program to help tenants pay their housing costs before they must be repaid in full next July.
The creation of the program was not what the City Council was originally meant to consider Tuesday night. A controversial repayment plan under consideration would have required renters to pay a fixed additional amount of rent to account for missed or partial payments made over the past few months.
If renters had failed to meet the requirements of the payment plan, it could have triggered evictions, according to Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony.
The council instead unanimously adopted a new program that could build off an existing $5.3 million rental assistance program that the council adopted last month, which will pay $1,000 per month for three months to the landlords of qualifying households.
“Proposing a repayment plan that could inadvertently trigger evictions, I don’t think that was the goal of the City Council,” said Councilman Rex Richardson, who made a motion to receive and file the payment plan proposal, effectively killing it.
The new program could establish a matching payment plan for renters trying to catch up on back rent. While it’s labeled as an expansion of the existing program, it’s unclear if any of the $5.3 million set aside for partial rental payments will be impacted by the new back-rent payment proposal.
Richardson said that the city should look for additional federal funding and other funding opportunities to provide the matching payments for renters behind on payments.
Anthony said that the same households that qualify for the rental assistance program would likely qualify for the new back-rent assistance program. More details, including potential funding sources and limits on matching payments, are expected to return to the council in the coming months.
The city extended its eviction moratorium in May and moved back both the starting point for full-rents being due to August and the deadline for back-rent—rent payments not made or partially paid between March and July—to July 2021.
While the vote was unanimous, some council members had reservations over not passing a repayment program, stating that leaving potential balloon payments due at the end of July 2021 could lead to a wave of evictions if tenants are unable to satisfy their outstanding balances.
Others express concern that residents with mortgages dependent on rental income would be unfairly impacted by allowing some month’s rent to go unpaid for a year.
Councilwoman Suzie Price, who earlier in the year had inquired about a rental repayment program citing these concerns, again echoed that sentiment saying that as a commercial tenant it was going to be “nearly impossible” for her business to make a balloon payment for missed rent and that the city’s policies were helping renters and not property owners.
Price was targeted by a protest Tuesday evening for her support of the payment plan, with roughly 100 people marching from Recreation Park to Price’s home demanding she support policies that would support renters in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The march began at around 5 p.m., the time City Council began its meeting via teleconference. It was not clear whether Price was home; she didn’t interact with the marchers.
There was a small scuffle after a man grabbed the neck of a young male protester, but it was broken up quickly. Police were not involved.
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