During their June 28 meeting, the Bakersfield City Council chose not to allocate additional funding from the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to create the Eviction Prevention Services program, the comprehensive right-to-counsel program that would provide tenant rights education and outreach, legal services, and advice for landlord/tenant issues, and attorney representation for tenants in court.
Instead, the Eviction Prevention Services program will receive $350,000 and a further discussion will be had to see if more funding will be available at mid-year.
The Eviction Protection Services program would provide tenants with knowledge of what their rights are, and give them information on how to protect themselves before they fall under the threat of eviction.
Additionally, if they were facing eviction, it would provide them with legal counsel and aid so they wouldn’t have to go through the court process alone and represent themselves.
“We need to keep people housed. We have a problem everywhere — and I’m not saying that all landlords are bad, it’s probably a small percentage, but that small percentage is a huge problem,” stated Wendell Wesley Jr., a resident in support of the Eviction Prevention Services program.
Residents described the program as a necessity, pointing out that the $1 million in funding would have been beneficial to helping keep Bakersfield tenants housed and protected against evictions and rent increases that are more than 10%
“I think the right-to-counsel is not given the importance it deserves. This is the type of system our city needs to even have a chance against the housing crisis that is a statewide problem now,” said Ward 6 resident Veronica Monterroso. “There are many constituents who would benefit from the right-to-counsel having the budget necessary to function. Many people in Bakersfield are fighting to stay housed.”
Before making their final vote on the FY2024 budget, Ward 7 Councilmember Manpreet Kaur asked for clarification on the previously set aside $500,000 for the right-to-counsel program, asking if that funding was still available to give to the program. It was then that the City Manager, Christian Clegg noted that that money had been given back to the ARPA funding since the city received federal funding that went towards a rent assistance program.
Councilmember Kaur’s next question to Clegg was centered around options the City may have to provide help or funding for the Eviction Prevention Services program, to which Clegg responded that he recommends the City doesn’t change the proposed budget.
Clegg’s recommendation also included that the City takes the next six months to review the program’s experience and access the full spectrum of services of services needed for individuals who may be vulnerable.
“While we are upset that a fully funded Eviction Prevention Services program was not passed on Wednesday night, we are grateful for the comments on behalf of Councilwoman Kaur asking to prioritize funding moving forward for this project,” stated Sandra Plascencia, a Policy Advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. “We strongly believe that a well-funded program can give tenants in Bakersfield the opportunity to stay housed when facing evictions and curb the homelessness crisis we are seeing in our City. We will continue to advocate for stronger tenant protections and continue our movement to make sure all residents in Bakersfield live in safe, equitable, and affordable housing.”