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Housing and Homelessness

Why LA Renters Still Seeking Relief Have To Start Their Applications All Over Again

Color-block map that shows areas of Southern California where renters are eligible to apply to the state's rent relief program.
Map that shows areas of Southern California where renters are eligible to apply to the state's rent relief program.
(Graphics by LAist
/
map courtesy of State of California)
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After months of waiting, L.A. tenants who’ve been shut out of the city’s rent relief program can once again apply for aid.

The state of California’s HousingIsKey.com website began taking applications from Angelenos on Wednesday morning. That’s because — after a series of issues —the state agreed to take over the city’s troubled rent relief program moving forward.

City officials said transferring control makes more money available to low-income L.A. renters who’ve fallen in debt to their landlords during the pandemic.

“With the new funding from the state, 100% of qualified rental assistance requests will be met,” said City Council President Nury Martinez during a news conference on Wednesday.

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“The assistance will not only support the families that are falling behind on their rent,” she said, “it's also critical for the mom-and-pop landlords in our city who are struggling over the past year to make their mortgages and to sustain their buildings.”

Now Comes The Hard Part — Getting Existing Applicants To Apply All Over Again

The shift to the state also presents a major challenge for the city — getting existing applicants to apply all over again through a separate, state-run website.

While L.A. officials do plan to pay off the debts of about 17,000 households before the city runs out of money, tens of thousands of existing city applicants still need help. And their applications will not be transferred to the state. Tenants and landlords will need to go back and resubmit all their information through HousingIsKey.com.

The process has been confusing.

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Myles Leevy lost his job as a restaurant manager early in the pandemic, and ended up falling behind on rent by about $6,000. He applied to L.A.’s rent relief program back in April, and sent in multiple rounds of documents requested by the city.

Then last week, the city told Leevy he needed to submit a new application through the state.

He said he had no trouble filling out the state’s application on Wednesday morning, but he’s still unclear on what comes next. Call center workers often haven’t been able to answer his questions.

“What I have just adapted to — and try not to get frustrated with — is there are no specifics,” Leevy said. “Nobody does seem to know exactly what's going on.”

How To Check Your Status For Rent Relief

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The city’s housing department said it has already emailed every applicant in English and Spanish about the need to reapply. Existing applicants can check the status of their request at this link, or they can call the state with questions at 1-833-430-2122.

“Housing advocacy groups are being hired to assist with outreach and application navigation,” said Anna Ortega with the city’s Housing and Community Investment Department. “Extensive outreach efforts will be conducted.”

However, some legal aid advocates still worry low-income renters could fall through the cracks as the city hands off responsibilities to the state.

State officials said the city’s existing applicants will be prioritized for funding ahead of new applicants coming in for the first time. With the state’s eviction moratorium ending on Sept. 30, California’s housing department director Gustavo Velasquez urged Angelenos to apply quickly.

“Time is of the essence here,” Velasquez said. “We need Angelenos to apply to this program.”

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David Wagner focuses on Southern Californians getting left behind in an economy beset by soaring unemployment, pandemic-related business closures and high housing costs.