On Aug. 31 2023, Berkeley’s Eviction Moratorium expired, following a 41 month-long hold on evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium, which enhanced protections for tenants against eviction, kept many families housed within an uncertain situation. Now, the impacts are being felt.
Berkeley’s Eviction Moratorium prohibited evictions except for those required for public health by the City of Berkeley. The moratorium also allowed eviction if the property was taken off the market, or if eviction was necessary for the health and safety of residents. Currently, residents may be evicted if the landlord can show “good cause for eviction” under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance or state law.
According to Leah Simon-Weisberg, chair of the Berkeley Rent Board, the Eviction Moratorium was an effective policy for mitigating housing insecurity during COVID-19.
“While it’s ended now, I think it made a big difference for tenants,” said Simon-Weisberg. “It kept tenants in Berkeley housed. And we saw almost no increase in homelessness, and we saw almost no evictions.”
Many communities who were kept in their homes during the time when the Eviction Moratorium was in place are now experiencing housing challenges.
Leticia Amezcua works in the Parent Resource Center, which aims to serve all BHS families with an emphasis on disenfranchised BIPOC families. She stated that evictions can impact both a family and a child’s education.
Some BHS students have experienced this impact firsthand.
“Currently, I’m homeless,” said a BHS student, who wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. “I’m not in a stable place. I’m with a friend (and) I do not have privacy. I live with older people and they tend to go on with their lives,” she said. “And they go out partying and come home very late or want to party while I’m there. So I can’t rest, (and) can’t go to sleep because I have to go by what they say or do. It’s their place.”
According to the student, her education has been affected significantly.
“There is also a lot of homework and I also have to work. That is where I have to decide what is (the) most important: work or school,” she said. “I have to work and that means that I cannot pay too much attention to my schoolwork.”
According to Amezcua, who declined to share personal identification of the family to respect their privacy, a Berkeley family of six who was living in a small apartment was evicted and forced to move out. She mentioned that the challenging part of this situation was that they didn’t earn enough money to rent in Berkeley and it was difficult to find any housing that’s under $2000.
“Everything in Berkeley’s above $2,500 a month, and so it’s very challenging, trying to find a space for them that … they can rent so that the kids can stay in Berkeley schools.” said Amezcua. “Finding a place doesn’t always happen. I haven’t been that lucky. Out of all the families that I can think of, only one was able to find an apartment here in Berkeley. The rest have to move and find another school because it’s far out from here. Two families went to Sacramento (and) others have to move to Richmond.”
According to Irma Parker, a Family Engagement staff member at the BHS Parent Resource Center, eviction can happen for many reasons.
“Some are personal,” said Parker. “And some are just because maybe the landlord doesn’t care for the tenant or the tenant doesn’t care for the landlord.”
Parker added that landlords often feel financial pressure to evict tenants.
A party was held by the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA) to commemorate the ending of the Eviction Moratorium on Sept. 12 2023 and resulted in altercations between the BPOA and various tenant associations such as the Tenant and Neighborhood Councils and the Berkeley Tenants Union.
According to Simon-Weisberg, tenants should know that they still have protections and should reach out to the Berkeley Rent Board for assistance. She shared that the best thing to do to protect your tenancy is taking action and reaching out for help.
In the Parent Resource Center, much that they do in order to provide for families who need support are taking care of their basic goals, stated Amezcua. That could include food, lawyers, school supplies, clothes, or shoes.
“It’s an obstacle in my life and even though it’s too much, I know it won’t be forever. My father is ill and it’s something that I have to deal with at my age,” said the anonymous student. “But I just try to find ways to motivate myself … and I try to put on a brave face so that I can feel better … I know there will be a time for new beginnings.”