With California's eviction moratorium now expired and leaving hundreds of thousands of tenants who can't pay their rent vulnerable, San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston on Friday declared his district an "Eviction Free Zone."
Preston's district includes neighborhoods like Hayes Valley, the Fillmore, Japantown, Lower Pacific Heights, Western Addition, Cole Valley, and Inner Sunset. The state's eviction moratorium had been in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but ended on Thursday, leaving tenants who can't pay rent because of the COVID-19 pandemic fearful of losing their home.
According to Preston, the need to inform tenants in his district about their rights, where three out of every four households consist of renters, is urgent.
"There's a lot of confusion out there. Most tenants don't realize that they are protected from eviction right now. What's changed is they need to learn and assert their rights, it doesn't just happen automatically," Preston said in a statement. "That's where this program comes in. Our message to tenants facing eviction threats is apply for rent relief, exercise your right to counsel, and stay in your homes."
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The Eviction Free Zone initiative encourages residents to apply for government rent relief funds, seek legal representation, and to be educated on local anti-eviction protections, among other efforts.
Preston cites three current protections available to renters who can't pay rent, including a local emergency ordinance authored by Preston and approved by the Board of Supervisors this week prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants for not paying rent through the end of the year, provided tenants pay at least 25 percent of what's owed.
Additionally, Preston is encouraging renters to apply for rent relief assistance through the state's Housing is Key program at www.housing.ca.gov, as landlords are barred from evicting tenants for nonpayment if the tenant has applied for the funds.
Preston is also encouraging renters facing eviction to seek legal counsel through the city's Tenant Right to Counsel program, which provides free legal counsel for people facing eviction.
Preston said his office, along with volunteers and non-profit partners will conduct extensive outreach for the initiative, aiming to contact every renter in the district through phone, email and text.
Additionally, Preston and organizers will be conducting Tenant Rights Bootcamps, with the first scheduled for next week.
Jackie Fielder, founder of group Daybreak Political Action Committee, which is part of the Eviction Free Zone initiative said, "Our state leaders have failed to step up when tenants need it most, but we know how powerful local organizing can be to stop displacement."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the number of renters in San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston's district as one out of every four households. It has since been corrected to three out of every four households.