LOS ANGELES (CN) — An angry crowd gathered outside the grand Getty House in Los Angeles where Mayor Eric Garcetti lives, looking for answers on rent.
The global pandemic has devastated the job market across the country and on Aug. 14 the California Judicial Council, the policymaking arm of the state’s court system, could vote to dissolve a statewide eviction freeze.
Once that protection is lifted, evictions for nonpayment will flood court systems across the state and tenants will need to turn to their local governments for some type of relief.
“Everything is falling apart and fucking Garcetti and the city don’t do anything,” said Abel, a 22-year-old former waiter who was laid off in April and is unable to pay his full rent on an apartment he shares with two roommates. Abel does not want his full name published due to fear of retaliation from his landlord.
“I’m not special, OK. There’s a bunch of people who can’t make rent. If I become homeless, I’m going to set a tent right here,” Abel said, stomping his foot outside the mayor’s mansion at a protest in late July.
Roughly 66,000 people are homeless in LA County and 41,000 in the city according to data released January, but those figures do not factor in the economic fallout from Covid-19.
Estimates vary but hundreds of thousands of tenants in LA County could be kicked out of their homes for nonpayment during the pandemic.
Elena Popp, attorney with the Eviction Defense Network, said Governor Gavin Newsom has provided little to no help for tenants across the state, and the only official action stemming the flood of evictions was the judicial council’s Rule 1 that froze evictions in March.
“Rule 1 was a tourniquet on a gaping wound, or to mix my metaphors, stopped a 365,000 to 600,000 eviction tsunami that would have hit our shores in the first week of April, May, June or July,” Popp said in an interview. “Our local elected officials looked at that wound and said, ‘Hey, let’s put a Band-Aid on that.”
The city of LA will pay $103 million in rental assistance for 50,000 randomly selected families. The city will pay up to $2,000 in rent for tenants who applied last month to be part of the program.
More than 100,000 people applied when the application window opened, according to city officials. The program is meant to stem the deluge of evictions, but could have been spent somewhere else, according to Gary Blasi, UCLA professor emeritus and lead author of the Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy study “UD Day: Impending Evictions and Homelessness in Los Angeles.”
“That money could have been spent on subsidizing out-of-work residents,” Blasi said in an interview. “It really is just a $100 million transfer of money to landlords and will only temporarily delay evictions.”
According to available data, the best-case scenario shows 200,000 to 600,000 people will be evicted when the courts accept unlawful detainer motions again.
“That’s a real conservative estimate and probably far lower than the reality of the crisis,” Blasi. He paused to punctuate how drastic an influx of that number of people being forced out of their homes would look like in a major city like Los Angeles and wonders why local lawmakers are not doing more.
“Do these people have any idea what’s coming around the corner? It will be the biggest event of any civil consequence in any modern metro city,” Blasi said.
His study references Hoovervilles, the shanty towns built during the Great Depression for the unemployed masses and named after then President Herbert Hoover.
“My working title for this study was going to be ‘Avoiding the Camps’ because that’s where we’re headed and it sounds more serious,” Blasi said.