On October 5, SFF held a donor briefing to respond to the housing emergency that was set in motion when California’s eviction moratorium expired last week. Experts from three local nonprofits described the immediate fallout: confusion over tenant rights, residents being illegally locked out from their homes, and a spike in eviction notices. They also stressed an important message: donors can help keep families housed by supporting education around tenant rights, access to rental assistance, as well as legal representation.
SFF’s Senior Program Officer for Policy and Advocacy, Christa Brown, moderated the conversation with Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Institute (ACCE), and Centro Legal de la Raza.
Melissa Jones, Executive Director at BARHII, noted that there is a disproportionate number of Black and Latinx renters at risk of losing their housing. Many are hourly workers, and 80 percent are households with children. Melissa stressed the tremendous need for donations, especially in Contra Costa and Solano counties, to help ensure that families access rent relief and legal services. Christina Livingston, Statewide Executive Director at ACCE, shared that dozens of people have been contacting ACCE regarding eviction notices issued since October 1. Beyond legal resources, ACCE is focused on a total reimagination of housing, so that all families can live in affordable and high-quality homes. “This is a major crisis in terms of health, happiness and stability,” said Christina. “Hundreds of thousands are at the cliff, staring at homelessness or displacement.”
Monique Berlanga, Interim Co-Executive Director at Centro Legal de la Raza, shared that the organization’s phones have been ringing nonstop from terrified community members who fear being evicted or illegally locked out from their homes. Central Legal de la Raza advises tenants to keep copies of their leases with them, and to take medication and important items when they leave their homes, in case they return and find they are locked out. Centro Legal de la Raza has created guides and workshops to help educate community members about emergency rental assistance and tenant rights. “We’ve had a year without evictions,” she said to our donors. “So we know another world is possible.”
SFF has taken an all-in approach to the Bay Area’s housing crisis through our policy work, grantmaking, partnerships, and program-related investments. With people of color comprising nearly three fourths of the region’s tenants who are behind in rent, it is clear that the Bay Area’s housing crisis is also a racial justice crisis. We encourage our donors to support on-the-ground organizations working at the intersection of these challenges.
You can watch a recording of the event on SFF’s YouTube page.