‘I don’t know where I would go:’ San Diegans worry about housing as state eviction ban expires

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Thousands of Californians are facing eviction as a state eviction ban is set to expire this week, but there is a way to keep your home.

Under the ban, renters have been protected from eviction if they were behind on rent, and those renters can keep that protection if they apply for state rental assistance.

“I don’t know what I would do. Honestly, I don’t know where I would go. I don’t have family here,” said Luis Castro, a Chula Vista resident facing eviction. “I have been to the hospital because of the stress this has induced on my body, both mental and physical stress.”

By the end of Sept. 30, Castro may have to say goodbye to the apartment he’s called home for 12 years. Like many, he’s unemployed, behind on rent and facing eviction.

After three eviction notices citing different reasons, Castro feels forced out — especially as the state’s eviction ban is set to expire, giving landlords ground to evict tenants for not paying rent during the pandemic.

However, if you make 80% or less of the area’s median income and have been impacted by the pandemic, you can avoid losing your home if you apply for state rental assistance.

Castro is applying but says his landlord isn’t helping with documentation needed on the application. 

His landlord, Robert Stack, wants tenants to pay as he moves forward with building upgrades.

“I care about providing them with a good home, a good place to rent,” Stack said. “I don’t feel that I should be in a situation where I can’t improve a property I purchased.”

A local housing advocacy director expects a wave of evictions will come Oct. 1.

“Over half of the [719] evictions from this year are coming from the City of San Diego. The City of San Diego, come Oct. 1, will have weaker protections than statewide protections for tenants,” said Grace Martinez, director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment San Diego. “We are making sure people know what their rights are and where to go, but our concern is that without strong policy, we are going to see a massive jump in eviction cases.” 

State leaders say low income renters can still apply for assistance even after Thursday’s deadline, until all $5.2 billion of federal funding is given out.

“They don’t need to fear anything, because as long as they are working on getting those funds, they can’t be evicted anyway,” said Lucinda Lilley, vice president of FBS Property Management.

Earlier this week, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said there is still $13 million to be allocated to residents. He urges people to apply.

“We want to make sure San Diegans get every nickel of it,” Gloria said.

Gloria added the city plans to create a $5 million legal defense fund for San Diegans who don’t get help with rent and need representation in eviction court.

Under a state tenant law approved in 2021, landlords cannot get a court order for eviction for cases through March 31, 2022, involving tenants who finished the rental assistance application.

You can find rental assistance, you can reach out to ACCE, the San Diego Housing Commission, the Southern California Rental Housing Association, the San Diego Housing Federation and for legal assistance, the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

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