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Calexico City Council Will Consider Approving a Moratorium for Renters Affected by COVID-19

By: Mario Conde, Reporter

The Calexico City Council heard the voices of many residents asking them to pass a moratorium to support home and commercial renters that are close of losing assets during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council met in special session Aug. 26 to hear a presentation regarding a proposed eviction moratorium that was submitted last month by the Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition. Councilman Bill Hodge said he was the one asked this item to be placed on the agenda for approval but was surprised to know that he was only an informational item.

City Attorney Carlos Campos gave an overview to the council about the federal, state, and county moratoriums that have been approved. There were over 20 public comments made in support of this moratorium that was sent via e-mail or by Zoom.

Among the speakers was Luis Flores, a representative of the IV Equity and Justice, said that it is important to pass this moratorium to prevent homelessness and the loss of small businesses in Calexico.

“Calexico is at the top of the chart when it comes to the impacts of COVID-19 so please I ask you to do something to protect the renters and small businesses in Calexico,” Flores said in a statement he made via Zoom.

Another speaker, Ashley Diaz, also encouraged the council to approve this moratorium and questioned as to why the city has not taken action on this during the pandemic.

“The eviction moratorium was offered by the Governor in March and why is that five months later that you add this plant into agenda?” she asked. “What stopped Calexico from performing an act of equity for our people knowing that the majority of our community are renters and small business people. You had five months, people have been evicted and had to change their living conditions. Please do the right thing,”

The Imperial Valley Equity and Justice Coalition sent the city of Calexico a proposed moratorium month ago to protect renters and small businesses ordinance, which would bring Calexico in line with the protections offered by a growing number of local governments across the country. The ordinance is modeled after the moratorium passed by the County of Imperial and the Los Angeles City Council.

While over 150 local governments in California have passed eviction moratoriums to protect renters and small businesses against displacement, no city in Imperial County has voted on these protections. El Centro considered adopting one in early April, but determined that they needed more information and tabled any action.

Under this proposed ordinance and during the local emergency, no landlord shall try to evict a residential or commercial tenant for nonpayment of rent if the tenant demonstrates they are unable to pay rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19.  The tenant must notify the landlord in writing of lost income and inabilities to pay full rent due to financial impacts related to COVID-19 and provide documentation to support the claim by the time of payment of back-due rent. For commercial renters, if a tenant suffers only a partial loss of income, the tenant shall pay the prorated share of their rent that corresponds to the income they generated during the period of loss.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that as of July 2, 2020, 1,023 “low-income jobs” had been lost in Calexico, a city vulnerable to employment shock since it takes 78.56 hours of work per week to afford a 2-bedroom house in Imperial County.  The IV Equity and Justice Coalition argued that small businesses in the Latino-majority are also at risk of closure form eviction.

Councilman Bill Hodge requested this to be put on the next agenda for discussion and possible approval. However, since the agenda for the Sept. 2nd meeting would go out this week, it was decided that this item would come back at the Sept. 16 meeting so that the city attorney’s office could draft a proposal for the council.

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