The California Apartment Association on Tuesday held a free webinar on the financial health of the state’s renters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The roughly 45-minute webinar accompanied CAA’s release of a report by Beacon Economics. While some California renters are still struggling to make ends meet, the report concludes, many are experiencing a robust financial recovery as the economy bounces back from the COVID-19 crisis.
The webinar included a presentation by Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics.
Beacon’s report, commissioned by CAA, comes as California fully reopens its economy and as lawmakers consider whether to extend the state’s pandemic-related eviction moratorium.
Beacon’s research indicates that California renters, thanks largely to the strong economy going into March 2020, are well-positioned for an economic rebound.
The unemployment rate for California renters, while elevated at 10.25%, already is lower than it was from 2008 to 2014, a period that did not include government-imposed eviction bans.
Moreover, late rental payments have dropped from 20.7% at the height of the pandemic to 11.8% last month. And while national rent debt is estimated at $6.7 billion, the federal government has set aside $46.6 billion for rental assistance — more than enough to wipe out all rent debt.
While some California renters continue to struggle, worries about evictions are “largely overblown,” he said.
“When we take a look at the aggregate statistics at the national or state level, you don’t find an economic situation that would back up the prediction that 900,000 households in California are behind on rent and facing eviction,” Thornberg said. “Quite the opposite, things look remarkably strong for the overall labor force, and in particular, for renters.”
Tom Bannon, chief executive officer at CAA, also addressed efforts in the Legislature to again extend California’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium.
Bannon said pressure to extend the eviction ban beyond June 30 can be traced to the slow disbursement of rent relief dollars at the local and state levels.
“It is unconscionable that less than 15% of the billions of dollars earmarked in California have not been disbursed,” he said.
Bannon said CAA continues to call on the state and local governments to limit protections in those situations where tenants have used loopholes in SB 91 to avoid paying rent even if they could afford to.
“Unfortunately, thousands of renters are abusing the system,” he said. “We’re talking about people who had the ability to pay or kept working full time throughout the pandemic but quit paying rent because they knew the moratorium would make it difficult to proceed with an eviction. This cannot continue”.
Update: Lawmakers introduce short-term extension of COVID-19 eviction moratorium (June 25, 2021)