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Good afternoon, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Monday, Feb. 1.
Last week in Fresnoland, Monica wrote about how California renters continue to face eviction despite the moratorium and how many people have been kicked out of their homes outside the formal eviction process. Danielle answered reader questions on what the newly extended moratorium means to California residents and landlords.
It’s Danielle Bergstrom, policy editor for Fresnoland, here.
Last week brought yet more changes to the convoluted and ever-changing laws around pandemic-related evictions and foreclosures in California.
On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill which not only extends the state’s eviction protections through the end of June, but also establishes a plan for forgiving rent debt for landlords and renters.
Reminder: the eviction protections are only intended to shield tenants who can prove, in writing, that their income has been impacted by the pandemic.
(Read my Q&A here on the latest law — and keep sending your questions so we can keep updating it!)
Some tenant advocates criticize the new plan, claiming that allowing landlords an option to reject the state’s offer to pay 80% of tenants’ rent debt incurred during the pandemic gives landlords the power to still pursue eviction against lower-income tenants so they could rent the apartments at today’s higher market rent.
In Washington, President Biden signed an executive order last week extending the Centers for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions related to COVID-19 income loss through March 31.
We’ve been doing our best at Fresnoland to stay connected with legal and policy experts to help interpret the new laws for you all — in addition to keeping our ears peeled to try to understand how tenants are (or aren’t) able to navigate the myriad of regulations.
Our priority for coverage has focused on tenants — in part, because the health impacts of anyone losing their home, especially during a pandemic, cannot be underestimated.
But we know that there are many landlords — especially small, “mom and pop” landlords — who have taken a significant financial hit from the pandemic. We have heard that the rules are equally confusing for many landlords.
We are reaping the consequences of a national housing policy that relies so heavily on the private market to provide a basic good — home — for people, regardless of their ability to pay for that good.
We want to hear from landlords: What has been your experience during the pandemic? Would you take the debt forgiveness deal from the state?
And now, the week’s top reads:
(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)
Housing, Transportation, and Land Use
Tower Theatre sale to church premature, brewery owners say. Here’s what we know. Fresno Bee
How did the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, a downtown landmark, get pulled into the Tower Theatre debacle? The Munro Review
The new moratorium, which lasts until June 30 of this year, provides eviction protection to tenants who pay at least 25% of their rent — either monthly or in one lump sum — and creates a program for eligible landlords. Sacramento Bee
The Fresno City Council approved plans Thursday for an 844-lot Granville Homes’ proposed “Parc West” development on the west side of North Grantland Avenue between West Gettysburg and Ashlan avenues. Fresno Business Journal
The housing market for Central Valley counties ended 2020 strong, with double-digit gains in home sales. Fresno Business Journal
OPINION: Fresno mayor has an opportunity to address homeless housing that he can’t waste. Fresno Bee
Biden lays out his plan for fair housing, attempting to undo decades of segregation. Bloomberg CityLab
Economy and Neighborhood Inequality
Fresno greenlights cannabis equity program for people with criminal records. Here’s why. Fresno Bee
California lawmakers are considering offering additional support for Latinas who tend to earn less than other Californians and who are over-represented in industries especially hard hit by the pandemic. Sacramento Bee
California’s unemployment benefits system has left many jobless workers in dire straits and unable to receive financial assistance because of dysfunction that results in jammed phone lines, overwhelmed staff and failed technology. Los Angeles Times
Wages and benefits for U.S. workers rose in the last quarter of the year, putting 2020 within normal range, even with the raging pandemic. Fresno Business Journal
Unemployment numbers last month show farms have lost more jobs than any other industry during the pandemic accounting for more than half of the unemployment in Tulare County. Sun Gazette
The U.S. economy will return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year, but it will take years before people who lost jobs are able to return to work, according to the Congressional Budget Office. New York Times
The Biden administration juggles two priorities — making agriculture a cornerstone of its ambitious climate agenda and improving Black and other minority farmers’ access to land, loans and other assistance. New York Times
Water and Air Quality
In the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, two groundwater sustainability agencies try to find their balance. Water Education Foundation
Wildfires churn more into the air than just clouds of dust and smoke, scientists say. Those dark, billowing plumes of smoke may also be transporting countless living microbes that can seep into our lungs or cling to our skin and clothing. Los Angeles Times
With Democrats in power, an emboldened environmental justice movement confronts them. Los Angeles Times