Pandemic Rent Protections End Thursday

Carmela Karcher

The Coachella Valley is experiencing a housing crisis.

There are not enough apartments, let alone affordable apartments, and now protections put in place during the pandemic end on Thursday.

However, help may be on the way.

The Housing Opportunities for Everyone, or HOPE Act, was introduced to the state legislature last Friday.

The amendment would help establish a long-term stream of funding to help solve the state’s housing crisis.

It sets aside $10-billion in funding each year for housing.

The amendment has yet to pass in the legislature, but local non-profit leaders say there are ways you can help those who are struggling right now.

“The average sales price for a house right now is over $550,000, which is incredibly high. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Riverside County is something close to $2,000,” CEO of Lift To Rise Heather Vaikona explained.

These numbers come from reports before the pandemic, and since then, along with a lot else, prices have gone up.

Heather Vaikona is the CEO of Lift To Rise, a local non-profit that aims to increase the supply of affordable housing in the desert and reduce housing cost burdens.

Before COVID-19 in the Coachella Valley, two out of three renters were rent burdened, meaning they spend more than a third of their income on rent.

According to Vaikona, of those who are burdened countywide, 45% of applicants are single parents, and 89% of those single parents are single mothers.

But compared to the rest of the state, the desert is unique with it’s housing struggles.

“Across the state of California, we see similar levels of rent burden, but it’s compounded in the Coachella Valley,” Vaikona said. “One is that housing costs are high and the other one is that incomes are low, and we see in the Coachella Valley that incomes are incredibly low and it makes it even more difficult especially when there is pressure from outside markets and a lot of folks coming in buying vacation homes and second family homes. The tourism economy in some ways boosts our economy, but it also really stretches local families who live here year round and are then priced out of the market.”

And with the COVID-19 Tenant Relief and Rental Housing Recovery Acts ending on Thursday, Vaikona says there are some tangible solutions people can do to help those who are struggling.

“I think that wherever you are and wherever you live, you must be involved civically in your local city council. I say the next thing is, of course, it’s important to support the folks that are in our sphere of influence, either to apply for assistance where assistance is available or just be of support to each other.”

For renters, it’s important to note, your landlord must apply for rental assistance by this Thursday before they can try to evict.

Rental assistance is available to qualifying tenants who apply by March 31st.

The state also recommends you notify your landlord once you apply for rental assistance since this can help in both eviction and rental debt collection lawsuits.

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