Santa Clara County passes renter protections due to COVID-19
Santa Clara County Commissioner Cindy Chavez announces Silicon Valley Strong, a new initiative aimed at centralizing resources for the COVID-19 response in the region. Photo by Janice Bitters

    The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously adopted a countywide eviction moratorium, effective immediately.

    The ordinance, in effect through May 31, will protect renters throughout the county from being evicted due to loss of income because of the novel coronavirus. Evictions have been top of mind for local leaders as Bay Area residents have been ordered to “shelter in place” since March 17 and nonessential businesses have been forced to close or conduct all their work remotely.

    As a result, many local workers have been left wondering how they will make rent come April and beyond as health officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom estimate the state’s “stay at home” order could be in place for weeks or even months. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he may push to lift the federal ask for residents to stay home as early as next week, but state and local officials have said that’s not likely for California.

    “I’ve said this very honestly and objectively based on all the expertise and experts that are here assembled, and those we contact and work with that the next 6 to 8 weeks will be pivotal,” Newsom said during a livestream Tuesday. “That will be determinative in terms of being able to make adjustments and sort of reset expectations.”

    Santa Clara County officials said the renter protection ordinance passed Tuesday was modeled after measures taken by San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County.

    The move comes a week after Newsom issued an executive order aimed at protecting renters by allowing local governments to halt evictions due to non-payment of rent because of the coronavirus.

    Newsom’s executive order didn’t automatically put the moratorium in place, but was meant to “clarify any of the legal ambiguity of actions that have already been taken in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco,” he said in a livestream at the time.

    “And we broaden an understanding of the capacity of local government to move in a similar direction — which we encourage — over the course of the next days and weeks to protect those who have lost their job, their health has been impacted, the income has been impacted, due to health-related costs,” he added.

    San Jose earlier this month put a halt to evictions due to nonpayment, as long as the renter can prove their income had been disrupted by COVID-19. That order was initially set to expire on April 17, but city leaders have said from the start they could extend the order. The city unveiled a website dedicated to renters with questions related to the order last week.

    Meanwhile, Santa Clara lawmakers also approved similar tenant protections on Tuesday. One order passed Tuesday kicks in immediately to protect renters from evictions if they’ve had their income disrupted by COVID-19. A second order will will kick in 45 days from now for another 90 days.

    Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

    Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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