Yes on 21 – Maxine Waters says federal rental action ‘falls badly short’ of need

Karen Ocamb News

As chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been critical of federal officials for policies that impact her 43rd District, which includes South Los Angeles, a region in California that has been severely hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Recently, Waters, who’s endorsed Proposition 21, the Rental Affordability Act, challenged the moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that halts evictions for qualified renters until the end of the year.

According to Waters, the moratorium offers no monetary rent relief for millions of unemployed workers, requires renters to pay all deferred rent and late fees in January, and fails to guard against massive rent increases.

Proposition 21, an initiative on the November ballot,  puts limits on unfair, sky-high rent increases. It’s backed by a coalition of labor unions, social justice organizations, housing justice groups, the California Democratic Party and trusted civic leaders, including U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The measure seeks to urgently address California’s longtime housing affordability crisis, worsened by the financial devastation caused by COVID-19.

Due to mass unemployment and lost wages, millions of renters are especially hit hard by excessive rents. As a result, evictions looms for many Californians. Prop 21 would help address that problem by stopping sky-high rent increases, and therefore keeping people in their homes as the pandemic rages on.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters understands the serious issues at hand.

The CDC’s announcement “falls badly short of the action that is needed to protect families across the country who are struggling to make their rent payments through no fault of their own during the pandemic crisis,” Waters said in a Sept. 1 statement.

Waters continues: “The order halts evictions for some families after a burdensome process, but millions of others who may still be facing hardship during this pandemic are excluded. For those renters who are eligible, the order needlessly forces struggling families to jump through hoops, including signing legal documents that could subject them to frivolous litigation, just to avoid being kicked out on the street. The order also allows renters to continue to face penalties and fees for nonpayment of rent, regardless of the financial hardship they may be facing during this crisis.”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters adds: “Most importantly, without emergency rental assistance, millions of families will be faced with paying many months of accrued back rent in a lump sum, meaning that evictions are only being delayed, not prevented.”

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) recently released its 2020 Los Angeles homeless count and reported that homelessness jumped by 13% in L.A. County to 66,433 individuals, despite hundreds of millions spent by city and county officials.

“In the City of Los Angeles, the count increased 14% to 41,290 homeless individuals living unsheltered or on the streets. LAHSA identified wage stagnation and rising rents, systematic racism (which has fueled rapid gentrification), and the economic impact of COVID-19, as key causes of the increased homelessness,” according to a press release announcing the endorsement of Prop 21 by the California Democratic Party.

“The California Democratic Party is proud to endorse Proposition 21, a ballot initiative that will help keep families in their homes. Prop 21 gives local communities the tools needed to respond to the ongoing housing affordability and homeless crises, which have only worsened with the economic impact of COVID-19. Prop 21 is a common-sense solution that will bring stability to millions of families. We encourage CA voters to vote YES on Prop 21 this November,” said California Democratic Party Chair Rusty Hicks.

Karen Ocamb, the author of this article, is an award-winning journalist and staff writer for the Yes on 21 movement.