Hayward City Council approves $500K for tenant legal services

HAYWARD, Calif. — The Hayward City Council has awarded $500,000 to five partner agencies to provide legal services and anti-displacement programs for tenants at risk of unlawful evictions.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a contract of up to $500,000 with Centro Legal de La Raza to administer the Alameda County Housing Secure Anti-Displacement Program, a partnership between legal service organizations Centro Legal de la Raza, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, the Eviction Defense Center, the East Bay Community Law Center, and Bay Area Legal Aid. The partnership provides free legal services to residents, helping them comprehend their rights regarding evictions, rent hikes, security deposits, habitability, and safety. Additionally, the residents receive representation in eviction defense when required. Council member Julie Roche said it would save the city money in the long run by keeping people from having to live on the street.

“I think the minimum we can do as a City Council is keep people in their homes,” Roche said.

The discussion about shifting funds toward tenant legal services began at the Homelessness-Housing Task Force meeting earlier this month. The task force had $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds remaining for housing that it was considering spending on a program to renovate dilapidated homes for low-income homebuyers. However, with the county eviction moratorium ending, Council member George Syrop suggested exploring whether the funds would be better spent on tenant protections. The task force decided to explore both options and city staff came back with an estimate that the need for tenant legal services would be covered by $500,000. The council can provide additional funds to the program if needed.

The legal services partnership has been funded by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors since 2018 and it serves more than 300 households in Hayward, who were at risk of losing services from the partner organizations after the supervisors decided not to fund the contract any more last month.

Hayward city staff is expecting a spike in evictions when the moratorium is lifted. The staff report notes the city of Hayward has a large share of renters, more than half of whom are cost-burdened, or paying more than a third of their monthly wages on housing costs. The city was also experiencing a disproportionately high number of evictions compared to the rest of the county prior to the pandemic.

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