Supporting Those Most Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact, both economically and from a public health perspective, on our low-income Latinx community in San Rafael and across the County. Many of the individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 are essential workers who work in our restaurants, grocery stores, etc. The recovery and long-term resilience of our community is inextricably connected to the recovery and resilience of the local business sector, the non-profit sector, and the public sector and the community at large.

In August 2020, a coalition of community organizations representing health, education, and non-profit sectors came together to encourage swift and bold action by policy makers and to specifically address the economic and public health crises facing the Canal neighborhood in San Rafael.

City and County elected officials and staff joined representatives from the Canal Alliance, Community Action Marin, and Legal Aid of Marin to form the Canal Policy Working Group (CPWG). This group was formed to work collaboratively on the development of a range of actions aimed at keeping residents in their homes and addressing the growing burden of rental debt. The CPWG has been meeting weekly to work urgently towards a path to recovery that puts equity front and center, for residents and businesses alike. In addition, the CWPG is researching, analyzing, and developing specific policies for consideration by the County Board of Supervisors and the City of San Rafael City Council.

In November 2020, the San Rafael City Council and the Marin County Board of Supervisors adopted matching resolutions recognizing the disproportionate impacts that COVID-19 is having on our communities of color. In addition, a commitment was made to pursue bold, equity-driven solutions to protect those individuals and businesses that have been most impacted.

City staff have partnered with the County to support the allocation of emergency Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding for rental assistance and small business support. City and County leadership worked alongside community leaders to develop a partnership with the Marin Community Foundation that helped to secure additional rental assistance funding. As a result, the County is currently in the process of disbursing $2.8 million in rental assistance to keep people housed under the State’s current eviction moratorium, in addition to the $2.9 million that was disbursed in April and May of 2020. The County was also recently notified that it will be receiving an additional $7.7 million in rental assistance funding through the Federal stimulus package. 

In addition to financial rental assistance, the City and our partners in the Canal Policy Working Group are in the process of researching and implementing potential emergency policy options that consider the needs of tenants, as well as local property owners.  

On January 12, the Marin County Board of Supervisors reinstated the local eviction moratorium, which will be effective starting on February 1, 2021 and will expire on June 30, 2021. The countywide moratorium prohibits evictions based on non-payment of rent due to COVID-related financial impacts and prohibits property owners from charging late fees on rent owed in this period. The County’s previous moratorium had expired on September 30, 2020, when it was preempted by State legislation that implemented a Statewide moratorium through the end of January.  

On January 19ththe City of San Rafael City Council adopted a temporary rent freeze ordinance for tenants residing in certain residential units through December 31, 2021. The temporary moratorium solely applies in two designated US Census Tracts, Tract Nos. 1122.01 (Canal Neighborhood) and 1122.02 (Southeast San Rafael and Canal neighborhood), which have been most disproportionally impacted by COVID-19 and have the greatest level of housing instability.  The rent freeze does not apply to single-family homes, properties containing one or two housing units, accessory dwelling units, and residential units for which an initial Certificate of Occupancy was issued on or after February 1, 1995. 

City Staff, in collaboration with the Canal Policy Working Group, have been considering holistic solutions that not only address the rental debt burden of tenants who have been most disproportionally affected by COVID-19, but also the needs of the local landlords and helping to mitigate the impacts they face. Over the past weeks, staff have met with local property owners to discuss the proposed policy options and to solicit their input. 

The City recognizes the burden placed upon local property owners and are advocating to secure additional support for them. The rental assistance provided through the Community Development Block Grant and Marin Community Foundation funding is targeted at supporting tenants in greatest need; it also provides financial relief to landlords as the payments are made directly to the property owner. Additionally, the State is considering adopting AB 16, which would provide funding and a framework for disbursing rental assistance. The City sent a letter of support to both Senator Mike McGuire and Assembly member Mark Levine, urging them to vote yes on AB 16.  

What problem are we trying to solve?

The chart below shows how current confidence in paying rents varies by ethnicity in the Bay Area and is indicative of the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 is having on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) residents in our region.

Bar Graph Showing Renters in the SF Bay Area that have no or slight confidence that they can pay their rent or have deferred their rent payment at the end of October

Housing Instability Due to COVID-19

With employment rates for low wage earners in Marin decreasing more than 40% since the beginning of the year and those that are still employed experiencing wage stagnation and even declines in income, many tenants in Marin are facing a rapidly growing burden of rental debt. The CPWG developed an information sheet to quantify the scale and urgency of this housing crisis facing our community. The below excerpt from the information sheet shows the estimated households at risk of eviction in Marin as well as data on the rental burden facing Marin residents.

Percentages of Households at Imminent Risk image

Additional Resources

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