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The clock is ticking for renters and landlords: Under state law, landlords will be able to evict ten

By Manuela Tobias -CalMatters

According to a new analysis released March 4, only 16% of nearly half a million renters who applied for rent relief from the state of California have been paid.

And the clock is ticking: Under state law, landlords will be able to evict tenants who failed to pay rent by April 1.

Of more than 488,000 households that applied for assistance since the program launched in March 2021, about 180,000 were approved.

Four percent were denied, and more than half of applicants are still awaiting a response, according to the study produced by the National Equity Atlas, Housing Now, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty using state data.

The new study is a complete look at how rent relief is going in California.

But even most renters whose applications were approved are still waiting for a check. Of the 180,000 households whose applications were approved, just more than 75,000 households were paid. And they still need help: 90% of those households have reapplied for more money.

The number of people paid, according to the study, is significantly lower than what is shown on the state’s public dashboard — 191,000 households “served” and $2.2 billion paid.

Monica Hernández, a spokesperson with the California Dept. of Housing and Community Development, disputed the report’s findings and said that the state’s dashboard has “the most current and accurate numbers.”

Of 467,000 complete applications to date, 191,000 payments, or 41%, have been made, she said, and each week more than $80 million is going out to more than 8,000 households.

“Application complete, Payment pending”

The study’s authors said they stood behind their analysis, which shows that $900 million has been paid (“application complete, paid” in the state’s data), while another $1.15 billion has only been approved.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a piece of paper that says you’re approved; you need the money,” said Madeline Howard, a senior staff attorney at the Western Center and co-author of the report. “It doesn’t reflect the experience of the tenants who are living this day to day.”

The study also found that applicants waited a median of more than three months to get approval and another month to get paid — 135 days total.

However, the wait times have been getting shorter: Households who applied for aid last March waited about six months to get paid, while those who applied in October faced a wait time of just less than four months.

California received about $5.2 billion from the federal government to help renters stay housed and pay landlords.The state is in charge of administering about half of that, while 25 cities and counties are administering the rest.

The new study focuses on the state program, covering nearly two-thirds of Californians.

In January, the state received $68 million in additional federal aid or only 3% of the nearly $2 billion it requested in November.

Still, Calif. received one-third of the funds reallocated by the U.S. Treasury, which Hernandez said spoke to federal officials’ “confidence in our ability to distribute funds to households in need in a timely fashion.”

But, the complete data set was not released to the Western Center through the state Public Records Act until after the center announced its intent to sue the Department of Housing and Community Development, which administers the program with the help of a private contractor.

Repeated Public Records Act requests for the full data set were previously denied. These groups have been tracking California’s eviction and rent relief efforts from the beginning.

“We don’t track data and create a report on dates that folks applied, and then they received a response.

What we do is we’re able to look at the age of applications within the system and make sure that all applications are assigned by a certain date,” said Geoffrey Ross, deputy director for the Division of Federal Financial Assistance at the housing department, told CalMatters on October 11, That statement was accurate at the time.

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