Legislation Would Create New “Homelessness Prevention Fund” Under the State Bar of California, Provide Legal Representation to Particularly Vulnerable Renters Who Face Exacerbated Risk of Displacement and Homelessness
SACRAMENTO, CA — Today, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved legislation to establish a statewide eviction defense program to protect California’s most vulnerable renters. Authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D - Woodland Hills) and supported by a broad coalition of more than 50 leading nonprofit and community organizations, Assembly Bill (AB) 1487 would create the Homelessness Prevention Fund, to be administered by the State Bar of California, to fund education, outreach, and legal services aimed at preventing displacement and homelessness among particularly vulnerable California tenants.
“Preventing evictions is key to addressing our homelessness crisis, particularly given the devastating impacts of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable renters,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel. “This effort will leverage existing programs to address one of the root causes of the current crisis and help prevent homelessness before it begins. It builds upon an approach that has been proven to protect vulnerable communities, reduce homelessness, save taxpayer resources, and improve the fairness and efficiency of our judicial system.”
"Tenants are consistently underrepresented in legal proceedings," said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), joint author of the measure. "The lack of legal representation leads to increased displacement and housing insecurity. I'm proud to partner with Assemblymember Gabriel to ensure at-risk tenants can access the legal representation they deserve."
“We need to fight homelessness by addressing the root causes,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), joint author of the measure. “By protecting at-risk tenants, we can reduce evictions, displacements, and homelessness. This is why I am proud to co-author AB 1487 to establish a statewide eviction defense program.”
COVID-19 has exacerbated already-concerning rates of eviction and homelessness, with an estimated 13.2 million adults—nearly 1 in 5 renters—behind on rent payments due to the pandemic. Absent meaningful action, displacement is expected to rise dramatically in the coming months with far-reaching consequences for homelessness, public health, economic stability, and personal well-being. Data has shown that evictions are not only caused by economic hardships but are themselves a root cause of poverty and homelessness, as nearly 50% of homeless adults list evictions or rent-related issues as a contributor to their homelessness.
Providing legal representation to particularly vulnerable low-income tenants has proven to be an effective and cost-effective strategy for addressing homelessness. Notably, an analysis of the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, which was expanded under legislation authored by Assemblymember Gabriel in 2019, found dramatic results where tenants facing eviction were provided with representation under the program. Eviction defense programs are also a cost-effective investment for local jurisdictions; a 2019 report on the LA Eviction Defense Program estimated that for every dollar spent on an eviction defense program, Los Angeles would receive approximately $4.50 in value in avoided costs for emergency shelters, local rehousing programs, and mental health and healthcare services.
AB 1487 is supported by a coalition of more than 50 leading legal services, tenants’ rights, faith-based, and anti-poverty groups:
- “California desperately needs a fund dedicated to eviction prevention services for tenants with low incomes. In the midst of an economic, housing, and health crisis, our state must devote its considerable budget surplus to support struggling families, and to ensure that local jurisdictions have the tools they need to advance our recovery and protect residents. As it stands, the legal system is set up primarily to protect property owners and people with wealth, which means California’s low-income tenants, most of whom are Black and brown, are especially vulnerable now – they need and deserve more protection. We appreciate Assemblymember Gabriel’s leadership on this important issue.” - Tina Rosales, Western Center on Law & Poverty
- “We are proud to stand in strong support of AB 1487, which creates a fund for critical eviction prevention services that are needed now more than ever. This measure will ensure that recently enacted COVID eviction protections are effective in preventing displacement and homelessness, protecting the public health, and securing an equitable recovery shared by all Californians.” - Sasha Harnden, Inner City Law Center
- "We applaud Assemblymember Gabriel's long commitment to increasing legal services for low-income Californians and to protecting their housing. This bill is a major step in the right direction to keep California families safe and in their homes." - Salena Copeland, Executive Director, Legal Aid Association of California
- “Housing Now is proud to sponsor AB 1487. As a statewide coalition representing tenants across California, we believe this is a critical measure to ensure California’s speedy recovery, the long-term stability of our state’s 17 million renter households, and to advance racial justice. Estimates are that more than 2 million Californians were behind on rent in January with over 75% of them being people of color-- the very communities most impacted by COVID and targeted most for evictions.” - Francisco Dueñas, Executive Director, Housing Now Coalition
AB 1487 is expected to be debated on the Assembly Floor in the coming weeks.