Pleasanton residents financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter order could be eligible to receive city money to help with their rent after the City Council last week endorsed establishing a new emergency rental assistance program.
The program, which is open now, offers up to $2,500 to qualifying residents affected by the crisis pay for delinquent rent or late fees accrued during the COVID-19 shelter period.
"It's a great program, and I'm really glad that we're going to be able to offer some help. I'm sure it's going to be highly in demand, and we'll help as many people as we can," Councilwoman Julie Testa said during the June 16 meeting -- held online due to the pandemic.
"I think it's a wonderful program and something that's really needed, especially considering what we did for businesses and we've done for our nonprofits," Councilman Jerry Pentin added.
The program, which uses $500,000 from the city's lower income housing fund, aims to mitigate potential homelessness among residents or displacement from their homes due to the coronavirus crisis, according to Steve Hernandez, the city's housing division manager.
"The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is well-documented," he told the council.
"We know that due to the shelter in place order that is designed to stop the spread of the virus, many of our Pleasanton residents have lost their jobs or have had other sources of income decreased. And consequently, we have a lot of Pleasanton residents who are now unable to pay their rent," Hernandez added.
Though evictions due to COVID-19 impacts are not allowed during the state of emergency, city staff looked to develop a strategy to help residents facing potential housing debt from deferred or delinquent rent payments during the shelter period.
The result was the emergency rental assistance program, which offers one-time payment on the renter's behalf directly to the landlord. It's an outright grant for the resident, not a loan.
To qualify, an applicant must be able to show documented loss of at least 20% of their income due to employment cutbacks, missed work due to school or child care closures, or inability to work due to contracting COVID-19 or caring for an infected family member.
They must also have a household income that doesn't exceed 80% of the area median income (AMI) for Alameda County before the March 16 shelter order -- that could include $73,100 for a single resident or $104,000 for a household of four.
It's open only to tenants within the city limits who have a valid residential lease with a third-party landlord for at least six straight months in an apartment, house, condo, townhouse, mobile home or mobile home pad space. They need to have been in good standing with payment and lease terms before the shelter order.
Applicants must be able to verify the key elements with documentation, including the reduced income.
Residents who meet those requirements would still be ineligible if an immediate relative is their landlord, they're subletting with no valid residential lease or they already participate in the city's "Rapid Re-Housing" program.
Funding will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
The grant amount would be the lesser of the tenant's actual rent or the applicable rent based on the city's maximum affordability chart -- generally, $1,828 for a studio unit, $2,089 for one-bedroom, $2,350 for two-bedroom and $2,500 for three-bedroom.
The nonprofit CityServe of the Tri-Valley reached an agreement with the city to serve as the program administrator. For more information or to apply, visit cityservecares.org/renthelp, call 925-208-0660 or email email@example.com.