At its May 12 meeting, the Anaheim City Council voted 5-2 to extend until June 30, 2020 the eviction moratorium it had unanimously adopted on March 24. The moratorium, which covers both residential and commercial tenants, was set to expire at the end of this month.
The vote was 5-2, with Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Steve Faessel and Councilmembers Jordan Brandman, Denise Barnes and Jose F. Moreno voting in support. While they voted for the original moratorium, Councilmembers Lucille Kring and Trevor O’Neil opposed extending it through June, contending it imposed undue hardships on landlords who depend on timely rents for income, mortgage payments and property maintenance.
A move at the May 5 council meeting to extend the moratorium failed. Since the moratorium was enacted as an emergency measure, extending it required the support of 6 of the 7 councilmembers. However, it could only muster 5 affirmative votes, and failed. At the end of the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Faessel requested re-agendizing the moratorium extension for the following Tuesday.
The extension approved on May 12 entailed working around the emergency measure vote threshold by authorizing the interim city manager to extend the moratorium using the emergency powers granted to him in March. This required only a simple majority to pass, which proponents easily mustered.
Under the program, tenants can defer full rent payments by notifying their landlord in writing seven day’s before rent is due, provide proof their income has been reduced due to the pandemic. It also calls upon tenants to pay what portion of the rent they can afford.
Tenants would have to repay the unpaid balance of due rent in four monthly installments. city’s eviction moratorium, renters have four months to re-pay the balance of unpaid rent.
District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno sought unsuccessfully to have the repayment period extended to 12 months. The lengthier the repayment period, the less likely full repayment becomes. Anyone with experience as a landlord can attest that such a lengthy repayment period increases the odds of eventual eviction.
Moreno punctuated his pleas for extending the repayment period with predictions of a coming “tsunami of evictions.”
According to the data, nearly 90% of apartment households paid their monthly rent as of mid-May, 2020. In primary markets like Orange County, the payment rate is in the low 90s, barely off from a year ago.
Councilman Moreno has a penchant for taking exceptional instances and metastasizing them into city-wide emergencies. For example, he used the unusual circumstances at the Rancho La Paz Mobile Home Park and Casa Grande Apartments as opportunities to push for city-wide rent control for mobile home parks and apartments.
The government-imposed business shutdown has imposed genuine and deep economic distress. At the same time, government at all levels – in conjunction with private charities – have rapidly extended a raft of relief measures to aid distressed employers, unemployed workers and families in need. In some cases, government measures aimed at ameliorating economic dislocation are working at cross-purposes with each other.
According to the state Employment Development Department, the average unemployed recipient is getting $3,860 per month (which includes a $600 weekly COVID bonus via the federal CARES Act). This is in addition to other cash and non-cash public assistance programs.
A growing number of employers – including recipients of Paycheck Protection Program loans – report difficulty in hiring or re-hiring employees who are making more money by not working than returning to the work force.
COVID-19 is here. And government has a responsibility to provide aid to the businesses it has shut down and the workers those shutdowns have displaced. The best and most dignified path is re-opening the economy as expeditiously, and as safely, as possible. But re-open.
As political columnist John Hinderaker recently wrote, “The real choice is between the disease with a flourishing economy, and the disease with a devastated economy. The disease is a constant.”