SOLANA BEACH — The Solana Beach City Council voted unanimously at their Oct. 14 meeting to beef up the city’s COVID-19 rental assistance program with additional federal grant funding.
The assistance program aims to assist low income Solana Beach households unable to pay rent due to economic hardship, such as lost employment, caused by COVID-19.
The city-funded the program with about $116,000 — enough for up to 46 households to receive $2,500 each. That includes $122,000 of federal CARES Act and block grant funds allocated to the city, minus a $6,000 fee to the Community Resource Center, a local nonprofit, to screen applicants and administer the program.
“Low income” means 80% of the countywide median income for a family of four — about $92,000 or less per year.
Median contract rent in Solana Beach topped $2,000 per month during the period 2014 to 2018, according to the most recent data from the American Community Survey. Zillow, a firm, puts a typical rent in the San Diego metropolitan at a little under $2,400 currently.
“If we receive more applications than we have funds, then the city will have to determine which applicants will receive the funds,” Assistant City Manager Dan King told The Coast News. Factors to prioritize households could include “minor children,” “the greatest risk of eviction,” or “greatest need.”
“[The Community Resource Center] together with city staff and perhaps the council subcommittee [consisting of Deputy Mayor Judy Hegenauer and Councilman Dave Zito] would make final decisions about which applicants receive the grants,” he said.
Council has not yet established a start date to begin receiving applications.
“The faster we can move this along, the better,” Mayor Jewel Edson said. “I know there’s an eviction moratorium, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t being forced out of their homes.”
City Attorney Johanna Canlas advised against requiring landlords and management companies to stay evictions as a condition of receiving rental assistance checks from the city on behalf of tenants.
“There’s an issue of getting involved in impeding third party contracts [i.e., private lease agreements],” she said.
“I’m really disappointed that we don’t have any avenue to preclude landlords from continuing with eviction notices, given that we would be providing funding just to get [tenants] through, and the landlord could end up with that money and then still evict them,” Councilwoman Kelly Harless said.
Councilmembers also reserved $10,000 of federal funds for a food drive sometime around Thanksgiving.
If low-income applicants don’t exhaust rental assistance funds, the council would decide whether to open the program to “moderate-income” households — $92,000 to $111,000 for a family of four — or put the balance toward a second food drive.
“There are people at all income levels that are out of work,” Edson said. “They may have had an opportunity to save more money, being from a higher income level, but not necessarily, if you have kids or kids in college or other things that are a demand on your finances.”