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San Francisco to distribute $90 million in rent relief

City’s new Emergency Rental Assistance program, with funding from the U.S. Treasury will launch on May 28 and support vulnerable San Francisco tenants

Mayor London N. Breed today announced that the City’s new emergency rental assistance program will begin accepting applications on Friday, May 28. The City’s program is designed to keep tenants in their homes by leveraging existing eviction protections and maximizing prospective rental assistance.

San Francisco’s local program can provide up to six months of rental assistance including three months of future rent. The local program will prioritize the most vulnerable tenants using an evidence-based screening tool that considers a range of factors, such as past homelessness and extremely low household income. San Francisco’s program is in addition to the State’s rental assistance program, which will provide rental assistance for unpaid rents for the period of April 2020 to March 2021.

“This has been a year of challenges unlike anything we’ve faced before, and the economic fallout of the pandemic has been devastating for so many businesses and employees. This rent relief is critical to helping tenants and small property owners get back on their feet as we continue on with our economic recovery,” said Mayor Breed. “It’s absolutely crucial that we keep people in their homes, and this funding will help ensure that happens.”

The new rental assistance program is starting with a $26.2 million allocation from the U.S. Treasury, which will then be supplemented later this year by another round of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. Over $90 million has been allocated to San Francisco tenants and landlords from the Federal Government for rental assistance, with over $60 million in total being allocated to this new rental assistance program over two rounds of funding. The remaining $30 million in funding from the federal government is earmarked for San Franciscans in funding directed to the State of California.

“Under the historic American Rescue Plan, thousands of struggling San Franciscans will receive much-needed emergency rental assistance,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “By expanding and extending the vital Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the Democratic Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration are ensuring that struggling families continue to have a safe place to live during the pandemic. As House Speaker, I will continue to work hand-in-hand with Mayor Breed to ensure all San Franciscans have access to safe and affordable housing in our vibrant City.”

“San Francisco’s rent relief program will play a big part in keeping families secure in their homes,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “However, these programs are only good if the public take advantage of them. I encourage all renters who may be struggling with unpaid rent to apply for this assistance as soon as possible.”

The City is committed to ensuring that as many residents who need assistance receive assistance. However, applications will be prioritized from households who are most vulnerable to becoming unhoused due to certain economic and social factors.

In order for a tenant to be eligible to apply, they must have qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They must also demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability and have a household income at or below 80% of area median income (AMI). These limits are currently $102,450 for an individual and $146,350 for a family of four. However, the local program will prioritize applicants with very low (50% of AMI) and extremely low incomes (30% AMI). Applicants above 80% AMI will not be eligible for rental assistance through the City or State programs.

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development is leading the implementation of the new rental assistance program in close partnership with a network of BIPOC-led, San Francisco-based, culturally competent community-based organizations. The City’s rental assistance program is part of a regional homelessness prevention initiative led by All Home. The multi-lingual, low-barrier application will be screened using an evidence-based tool developed in consultation with local and national experts, including UCSF School of Medicine’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, to ensure assistance is provided to the most vulnerable tenants.

“We know that rental assistance is critical for many of the city’s low income residents and is the foundation to advance the city’s equitable recovery goals, said MOHCD Director Eric Shaw. “The city remains committed to helping as many residents as possible with the additional millions of dollars provided by the federal government.”

Beginning today, tenants interested in applying can visit: sf.gov/renthelp to familiarize themselves with the program requirements before the application opens on May 28. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Applicants will be required to provide documentation to verify identity, income, COVID-19 financial impact and unpaid rent. Since the program will be targeted to the most vulnerable tenants, rental assistance will not be first-come, first-serve. The City encourages tenants to apply on their own online if they are able. If tenants need help completing an application, a network of community-based partners are available to help. These community-based partners may be found at sf.gov/renthelp, by calling 311 or at www.sfadc.org.

“During this crisis, tenants have demanded that recovery be accessible and equitable. It is critical that we continue to work in partnership to prevent mass displacements and ensure access to stabilizing resources,” said Diana Flores, Director of Community Engagement and Organizing Programs at Dolores Street Community Services, member of the San Francisco Anti-Displacement Coalition. “The local program is an opportunity to get it right. We are hopeful that by designing a low barrier application process we can be responsive and adaptive to those most in need.”

“The SFAA is excited to partner with the Mayor’s Office on this important initiative to help implement San Francisco’s rental assistance program. The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly difficult for vulnerable tenants and housing providers who have struggled with missed rent and deferred mortgage payments. Now that local rental assistance is here, it’s critically important that housing providers and their renters in underserved communities are able to access and navigate the program quickly and easily,” said Charley Goss, San Francisco Apartment Association Government and Community Affairs Manager. “SFAA’s partnership with MOHCD and extensive work with the property owner community will help ensure that the program is effective, efficient, and helps the renters and housing providers who need it most.”

“The Native American Health Center is honored to be a lead partner on this important program,” said Natalie Aguilera, Chief Administrative Officer of the Native American Health Center. “COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities our clients face, and the pandemic has disproportionately impacted Native communities around the country and here in the Bay Area. San Francisco’s community-based rental assistance program model will enable us to provide direct support to our families most in need and keep them in their homes.”

“We are pleased to partner with the City of San Francisco in supporting this critically important Emergency Rental Assistance Program and being a vehicle to deliver funds to our most vulnerable households,” said Mr. Dion-Jay Brookter, Executive Director of Young Community Developers (YCD). “Assisting residents in accessing funds to secure a fundamental basic need – safe, secure and sustainable housing – is essential to YCD’s purpose and most importantly, vital to the enrichment of the communities we serve.”

“The providers of the Collaborative have been ramping up in preparation for disbursing these funds and are eager to get them to San Francisco’s neediest residents,” said Martina I. Cucullu Lim, Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative. “We applaud MOHCD and the leadership displayed in getting this program up and running in such a short time. This is a concrete step towards addressing the racial inequities intensified and undeniably exposed by COVID.”