Most of Long Beach’s $64 million in rental assistance funding has been committed, according to city officials, but there is hope that the city could access additional aid to help landlords and tenants clear back rents.
Long Beach Director of Development Services Oscar Orci told the City Council Tuesday night that the city had about $9 million left of the initial $64 million that it received during the pandemic to help landlords and tenants pay their bills.
There is hope that pending state legislation could provide additional grants to help cover unpaid rents, and an amendment to the state’s rental assistance program allows cities to take out loans to potentially help the thousands of tenants and landlords who were left out of the original $64 million in payments.
The loan program is part of a budget act signed into law in February and would allow the city to take out a cash flow loan that could be repaid with future federal funding. The U.S. Treasury has warned that cities that did not use their rent relief funding in a timely manner would have it reallocated, and now cities in California could apply for those funds and use the money to pay back loans issued by the state.
While the city is still be on track to distribute all of its initial funding by next month, officials are working through “red flag” cases to verify information that applicants provided, Orci said.
In total, the city has received over 33,500 applications for aid but has made 8,913 payments for rent or utility payment assistance. Orci said the city continues to receive applications, but those people are being told they’re likely not going to receive help from the city’s current pot of money.
Orci’s comments came after the council requested an update on progress in getting funds to renters and landlords and possible ways the city could speed up the distribution of the money and possibly change eligibility for the program.
The rental assistance program requires tenants to make less than 80% of the area median income, a qualification that some council members have said have excluded wealthier renters who also lost their jobs during the pandemic and were unable to pay rent.
City Council members have worked over the past year to try and speed up the city’s process to make it easier for aid to pay off unpaid rents and allow property owners to pay their mortgages.
“What we don’t want is a lot of small housing providers to have to default and get taken over by larger conglomerates that don’t have as big of a footprint or interest in the city,” said Councilwoman Suzie Price, one of the supporters of Tuesday’s request.
A countywide eviction moratorium was extended in January with a phased-out approach that could see the Los Angeles County’s poorest residents, those making less than 80% of the area median income, protected from eviction through June 2023.
Those tenants would have to self-certify after June 2022 to qualify but the extended protections would protect them from eviction for another year. A family of four with a household income of $90,100 or less would meet the upper threshold to qualify.
Tenants are required to have at least applied for rental assistance aid to be eligible for the extended protections from the county’s moratorium.
An update on the city’s rental assistance program is expected to be presented to the council next month.