HOUSING

Eviction moratoriums at the state and federal level were extended to protect tenants from eviction through June, although programs to disburse rental assistance face a major backlog. To address it, lawmakers introduced and passed AB486, a bill aiming to avoid an eviction cliff when moratoriums are gone. 

Under the measure, courts are generally required to pause eviction proceedings if a tenant has a pending rental assistance application, and drop the proceedings if back rent is paid through the assistance program. The bill also creates a $5 million pot of assistance for landlords with unresponsive tenants. Property owners can collect all the back rent that is in arrears in exchange for not evicting the tenant for 90 days. 

Since the start of the 2021 session, lawmakers debated more than a dozen housing-focused measures, but many died. The bills fell into two camps: clarifying eviction proceedings and tenants’ rights and increasing the amount of affordable housing.

Lawmakers stepped back from AB161, a plan to abolish the rapid summary eviction process, first by turning it into a study and then allowing it to die. Lawmakers also failed to advance SB218, a bill that would give tenants more rights to get their security deposits back

Still, they passed measures strengthening protections for former inmates searching for housing (SB254), sealing the records of people evicted because of the pandemic (AB141) and extending the timeline for notification of rent increases from 45 to 60 days (AB308)

Advocates said comprehensive housing reform is needed and worry that the failure to pass measures giving local governments more tools to the housing crisis will only make the situation worse.

Real estate agents criticized the eviction moratorium for the burden it shifted to landlords and were vocal players in the debate, ranking among the top donors to lawmakers ahead of the session.