The coronavirus pandemic has hit California communities like a whirlwind, and Anaheim is no exception.
The Anaheim Resort (including the Disney parks), the Anaheim Convention Center and a number of venues temporarily closed down last week. Anaheim City Hall shut down earlier this week out of an abundance of caution. The iconic Anaheim White House is shutting down for the rest of March – while continuing to operate Caterina’s Kitchen, which feeds hundreds of poor children every day.
Last week, Governor Newsom issued his latest executive order, basically telling people to avoid unnecessarily going out. To summarize the order, the following are closed:
- Bars and dine-in restaurants (except for preparing meals for pick-up and delivery)
Entertainment venues, convention centers
Gyms and fitness studios
Public events and gatherings
The folllowing remain open:
- Gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, food banks, convenience stores, take-out and delivery restaurants, banks, laundromats/laundry services.
- Essential state and local government functions, including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services
In Anaheim, city government is working hard to cope with the serious impacts and dislocations caused by the pandemic. Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, for example, has been coordinating private sector donations to Anaheim seniors and vulnerable population, participating in daily calls with big city mayors to generate policy recommendations for Governor Newsom and President Trump.
Last week, Governor Newsom authorized local governments to prevent evictions in instances where tenants are unable to pay their rent due to coronavirus-related circumstances.
Subsequently, Mayor Sidhu requested staff develop and agendize a temporary, emergency eviction moratorium narrowly-tailored to provide relief to residential and commercial tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The City Council will take up this proposal at tomorrow evening’s city council meeting.
“We know the secondary economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak are being felt in the daily lives of our residents and businesses,” according to Sidhu. “We have looked to a unified, statewide policy as the best option for our city and all of California. Lacking that, I am prepared to take action. I am placing on our agenda an item to address residential and business renters struggling to pay rent as well as residential and commercial landlords, particularly smaller ones, who now are facing hardship paying mortgages and other obligations they have.”
Under the proposed ordinance, landlords would not be allowed to initiate eviction proceedings against residential and commercial tenants who can show their inability to pay their rent is due to COVID-19. The ordinance covers both single- and multi-family homes, as well as mobile jones or “other structures lawfully used as a residential dwelling.”
In order to qualify, a tenant would have to:
- Notify the landlord before the day on which rent is due
- Document that they are unable to pay rent due to COVID-19
Tenants would still be required to pay the portion of the rent which they are able to pay.
The proposed ordinance is effectively a rent deferral program: it does not absolve tenants of their responsibility to pay rent. Under the program, they would have 90 days to pay back the rent owed, in three monthly installments.
The proposed ordinance would take effect immediately and remain in effect until April 30, 2020, unless extended by the city council.
“Providing tenants with a short-term protection from eviction due to the inability to pay rent will help stabilize the rental housing market by reducing displacement. During this state of emergency, and in the interests of protecting the public health and preventing transmission of the coronavirus, it is essential to avoid unnecessary displacement of tenants. To that end, prohibiting evictions on a temporary basis is important until the spread of the virus can be minimized and the emergency restrictions lifted,” states the staff report.
Apartment Industry Support
The proposed ordinance has the support of apartment industry organizations.
In a communication to city officials, California Apartment Association Vice President Victor Cao stated “On behalf of the California Apartment Association, I would like to offer my support as you respond to the impacts that COVID-19 is having on your residents and businesses. CAA represents over two million market-rate and affordable rental units in the State of California.”
The CAA, whose members own more than two million market-rate and affordable rental units in the state, on March 22 issued a call for landlords to commit to the following through May 31, 2020:
- Freeze rents on all residents & pledge to not issue any rent increases.
- Halt evictions on renters affected by COVID-19, absent extraordinary circumstances.
- Waive late fees for residents who pay rent after the rent due date because they have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government actions.
- Offer flexible payment plans for residents who cannot pay rent by the due date.
- Direct renters to available resources to assist with food, health, and financial assistance.
- Communicate with residents proactively that you are available to assist them and want to work with them to ensure they remain housed.
According to Cao, several CAA members have already instituted these measures voluntarily.
“We are urging rental housing providers to act with compassion in dealing with residents who face coronavirus-related hardships. We should also recognize that when rent goes unpaid, there’s a chain reaction. Owners, especially moms and pops, may be unable to pay their mortgage or other bills. That’s especially true if they come down with the virus and can’t go to work themselves,” Cao told Anaheim Blog. “I applaud the city officials for seeking equitable approaches for helping both renters and landlords get through this difficult time while maintaining their health, their homes and their financial security.”
At the national level, the Trump Administration on March 18 ordered a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions on homeowners with Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – which back approximately half of mortgages in the US – to observe a 60-day suspension of foreclosures and evictions. Earlier, FHFA announced Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would provide payment forbearance – suspending mortgage payments for up to 12 months – to borrowers impacted by COVID-19.
A growing number of banking institutions are also announcing foreclosure moratoriums and forbearance programs of various duration and terms.