San Mateo County supervisors on Aug. 4 approved allocating up to $5 million in federal funds to provide support to renters and property owners adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The allocations include $2 million in rental assistance, up to $2 million to support small residential property owners and $1 million for assistance programs, such as incentives for landlords and tenants to compromise on back rent, legal services, and educational programs.
The funds come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds provided by the federal government.
Board president Warren Slocum said that this was a step toward creating a "win-win" situation.
"We're trying to create a situation that benefits small landlords as well as people and families so that they can stay in their homes and not end up homeless," Slocum said.
Before the pandemic, renters in the county were already "rent-burdened," according to a board memo, with some paying more than 50% of their income on rent. Now, many have also lost income, with the unemployment rate in San Francisco and San Mateo counties at 11.7% in June 2020, more than five times the rate of 2.3% in June 2019, according to data from the state's Employment Development Department.
Shirley Gibson, directing attorney of the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, said during public comment that diversifying their funding was a good recovery strategy for the economy.
"What is good for tenants is good for landlords and what is good for landlords is good for tenants. In these unprecedented times, there aren't two sides," Gibson said.
The board also extended the repayment period for tenants unable to pay rent due to the pandemic.
When the countywide moratorium on evictions expires on Aug. 31, tenants will have up to six months to pay at least half of the owed rent, and up to 12 months to pay the full amount. Before the amendment last week, tenants had up to 180 days to pay the full amount of missed rent.
During last week's meeting, community members advocated for the board to extend the moratorium through Sept. 30, but the termination date of Aug. 31 remains.
Supervisor Don Horsley said at the meeting that he didn't favor extending the moratorium, as it would not be equitable for everyone.
"I don't think it is a property owner's responsibility to provide housing for free. I think it's our responsibility to cover that cost and not put it on the back of some property owner," Horsley said.
The board called for the state and federal government to provide further assistance.