That's necessary, officials say, because the effort has been overwhelmed with requests for help since California shut down its statewide rent-relief program on April 1. With tenants filing about 300 new applications a week, the backlog for the city's program now stands at 4,000 applications.
A group of local nonprofits has been helping the city process applications for the program, which offers lower-income tenants as much as $7,500 in rental assistance.
The volume of new requests was heavy enough that agencies were "basically barely treading water," said Ora Prochovnick, director of litigation and policy with the Eviction Defense Collaborative, one of the nonprofits involved. "They were trying to keep up with the new applications and therefore never able to touch the backlog."
Anne Stanley, a spokesperson for Mayor London Breed, said the emergency assistance model the city's program has been using "is just not sustainable for the level of need that's being shown."
"What was supposed to be a safety net for people who had been kind of left behind by the state's [rent-relief program] closure, ended up really being more of what clearly needed to be a 'steady state' program," rather than just an emergency one, said Stanley.
She emphasized that the pause on accepting new rental-assistance applications is temporary, and intended to allow agencies to make a dent in the backlog while the city works to revamp and relaunch the effort by the end of the year.
Stanley said the city could commit as much as $30 million a year for rental assistance, a huge increase from the $4 million a year it budgeted for direct tenant aid before the pandemic. The city is also consulting with a wide range of housing agencies and advocacy groups to refine eligibility criteria.