Housing commission has even more rent aid it struggles to distribute



The Doriana Apartments in Southeast San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The San Diego City Council has allocated even more funds to the San Diego Housing Commission to distribute to people who are struggling to pay their rent and utilities due to COVID-19, although the agency has for months struggling to distribute the funds it already has.

A change in state rules governing the use of state housing assistance funds helped the Housing Commission spend more money, but as of August 3, out of the total of $ 135 million allocated to aid payments, only $ 66 million had been disbursed.

In May, officials from the Housing Commission said they would not be able to spend all the funds due to limitations imposed by the state.

Governor Gavin Newsom enacted a measure at the end of June extending the moratorium on state evictions and increasing cash assistance available to low-income tenants and small landlords under the rent relief program of the State. ‘State. Tenants and landlords are now eligible to receive 100 percent retroactive rent and 100 percent rent up to three months, if funding is available. Before the change, landlords had to agree to forfeit 20% of the rent owed to them to receive funds and only a fraction of the future rent was covered.

The rule change helped the Housing Commission spend some of the funding or try those eligible before the August 1 deadline originally set by the state. On July 27, city council authorized an additional $ 60 million for rental and utility assistance to households affected by the pandemic. The majority of that funding came from US federal bailout law.

Under this measure, a first group of funds must be spent by January 31, 2022, and all funds must be spent by September 30, 2022.

Spokesmen for the Housing Commission and the Mayor’s Office have offered conflicting accounts as to whether Mayor Todd Gloria is considering using the funds in other ways if the commission cannot spend them before federal deadlines . Housing Commission spokesperson Susie Cawood said Gloria was exploring alternatives. But Jen LeBron, the mayor’s spokesperson, said they are committed to using the funding for rent assistance and utility payments and are not exploring alternatives at this time. .

According to a memo from August 3 Sent by Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry to the mayor and city council, limitations still prevent the agency from helping some residents. Gentry said allowing people to use the funds to pay off personal housing debt due to the pandemic would help many more households in need. Some households that have taken on debt through high interest credit cards or payday loans to pay their rent are not eligible for emergency rent assistance because they have no rent in. pain.

Gentry said in the memo that he recommended Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that aid include these forms of debt in May, and that Senses Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla made similar requests in July.

Since August 5, the Housing Commission has received 16,899 applications and as of August 3, it has made payments to 8,113 eligible households.



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