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Santa Clara County punts decision to extend eviction moratorium

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors punted Tuesday on a potential extension of the county’s temporary moratorium on evictions for residents affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The county’s moratorium currently ends at the end of the month but allows the board to extend or shorten its duration depending on the state of the pandemic.

The board avoided extending it at Tuesday’s meeting, however, because Gov. Gavin Newsom has yet to extend the suspension of state law that prohibits local moratoriums on evictions for missed rent payments.

Newsom’s executive order, which he signed in mid-March, is set to expire May 31, preventing the county-level governments from extending their own moratoriums later into the summer until he signs a new order to renew the suspension.

The board voted unanimously to move discussion of the extension to its next meeting, at which time they will consider extending the ordinance through Aug. 31.

All five supervisors agreed the pandemic would not allow county residents to return to work under normal circumstances by the time the calendar flips to June.

Several public speakers called on the county to cancel rent entirely during the pandemic, arguing that paying several thousand dollars in back rent will not be feasible for people returning to work in an unknown number of weeks or months.

Supervisor Joe Simitian noted that nationwide data from the National Multifamily Housing Council showed a relatively minor 4.5 percent drop in tenants paying some or all of their monthly rent in April.

He said:

“I think that tells us that if people can (pay their rent), they do. But we also know that for some significant number … it’s already gotten tough and it’s going to get tougher in the months ahead.”

Simitian and Supervisor Dave Cortese also said that while the county would face constitutional issues in waiving rent payments wholesale, the board’s Federal Affairs Advocacy Task Force, which Simitian chairs, would discuss advocating for similar federal action at its next meeting, scheduled for early June.

Cortese said:

“There’s … been some discussion about whether or not a (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act or extensions thereof at some point might want to take into account some kind of a reimbursement package for landlords so that they could actually appropriate rent abatements.”

The board is now expected to discuss the moratorium extension during its May 26 special meeting, scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Simitian said:

“This is the best way to both signal to the community what our intentions are, I hope, and also to comply with the limitations of the existing order.”

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