Emergency Rental Assistance
Our take on the state of the region

From emergency rental assistance to a transformative housing future

Author: Chris Schildt

California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) is set to close for applications today. Over half a million renters have applied for rental assistance, but only 1 in 3 have received it, with hundreds of thousands still waiting desperately for their application to be reviewed.

Today, state legislators are considering a last-minute bill that would extend eviction protections for tenants whose application is still in review, while, in deference to landlord interests, preempt most of the remaining local protections in place. State decision-makers are keeping low-income renters in a state of constant precarity as they weigh landlord profits against the violence and trauma of eviction.

For low-income communities of color, unaffordable, unsafe, and unhealthy housing has been the reality since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why, as the new Director of Housing Justice at Urban Habitat, I am honored to work with tenant organizers and housing justice advocates from around the region for a better future of housing stability, permanent affordability, and community control.

From Antioch to Concord to Petaluma, low-income tenants of color are organizing to build power to pass rent control, just cause for evictions, and tenant anti-harassment ordinances. In Antioch, our partners First 5 Contra Costa and the East County Regional Group surveyed low-income residents and found renters were spending nearly 2/3 of their income on rent on average, leaving little left for food, medical expenses, child care, and other necessities.

Ultimately, a housing system that is truly just means not only stronger renter protections, but also democratically-owned, permanently affordable housing for all residents by removing homes from the speculative market. We are supporting Vallejo residents to create a community land trust to put homes into the collective ownership of residents.

The past two years have shown the tremendous power when renters stand together — from eviction moratoriums to rent cancellation. State leaders must extend eviction protections today, and renters must fight together for a transformative housing future tomorrow.