The San Diego City Council approved a proposal to extend the deadline for residents to make up rent payments missed due to the pandemic until December 2020, not March 2021. It will need to pass a second vote and gain the mayor's approval before it's official, however.
San Diego City Council President Georgette Gómez asked for support Tuesday to extend the rent-payment deadline until March 31, 2021, but the council denied the request in a 6-3 vote.
Instead, the city council, in a 5-4 vote, passed Council Member Jennifer Campbell's proposal to extend repayments until December 2020 for those who missed rent due dates because of economic hardship brought on by the coronavirus.
The proposal will need to be voted on a second time since it didn't pass with 6 or more votes, according to a spokesperson for Council Member Barbara Bry. Then, Mayor Kevin Faulconer must approve it.
Bry and Council Members Chris Cate, Scott Sherman and Mark Kersey voted against extending repayments.
Bry criticized Gómez's proposal for focusing on halting repayments instead of finding ways to provide residents with rent relief and protect them from ruining their credit.
"Any unfunded eviction moratorium is vulnerable to legal challenge by both tenants and landlords. And, any moratorium that funds some renters without funding others is the very definition of arbitrary and capricious," Bry said in a lengthy statement.
The city has an eviction moratorium in place until Sept. 30, prohibiting landlords from evicting renters and small businesses that are unable to cover their rent or lease payments due to the pandemic. The moratorium does not forgive all rent, but gives tenants additional time to pay it.
The current payment deadline is Sept. 25.
Renters say the eviction moratorium is a lifeline while several have lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Right now, we’re unable to pay rent because the only one working at my house right now is my dad," said 18-year-old Maria Guadalupe. "But because they cut off his hours, and right now he's not going to work, there's no possibility."
Both her dad and uncle worked as cooks in restaurants and were laid off at the beginning of the stay-at-home order that forced many businesses to close in mid-March.
Guadalupe knows her family will be responsible to make all payments at once when the council's eviction moratorium expires, but at this point, she says it's the only solution they have right now.
However landlords say they have some tenants who are not even trying to pay rent. Without any assistance programs for landlords, some are barely able to make ends meet.
"I'm also a renter," said Marjorie Gundert. She rented out her home in La Mesa while she was working in Los Angeles, but has had to rent a room since she returned to San Diego. "So I'm paying for my own rent, plus the living accommodations of this family."
Gundert said she supports the moratorium for families who are trying to pay their rent, but it shouldn't apply to people who just refuse to pay anything. She says the family living in her home has refused to pay for six months.
"The government knows what they are putting landlords through," said Gundert. "If they really care about people not losing their homes, they need to be able to provide financial relief for the homeowners who are responsible for the bills."
Ahead of the vote, Gómez said that amid rising unemployment and the expiration of the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, San Diegans should be given more leeway to make their rental payments.
"When we passed the eviction moratorium in March, I hoped that six months would be enough for renters and small businesses to recover from the economic effects of COVID-19, or that our federal government would provide sufficient relief," Gómez said. "Unfortunately, the pandemic is not subsiding, unemployment remains high, many businesses are still struggling, and the federal government's response has been woefully inadequate. It is absolutely critical that we give San Diegans more time."
San Diego's eviction moratorium has been extended twice since the beginning of the pandemic. The latest extension was approved last month by a 5-4 council vote.
The city council has also approved $15.1 million in relief for renters, as well as nearly $19 million in relief for small businesses.
In an unexpected move, the San Diego Unified School District vocalized support for the proposal, stating it is what's best for students.
"With our students, especially knowing that we’re going to begin the year fully online, a student’s home is their classroom right now," Board Vice President Richard Barrera told NBC 7. "And for students to be in a situation where they could lose their home, it would just mean that many, many students can’t participate effectively in their own education."