Buena Park Cements Rental Assistance Program to Bring Relief to Tenants During Pandemic

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

The Buena Park City Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday approving its rental assistance program.

Buena Park is moving ahead with its rental assistance program aimed at helping residents who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City Council members Tuesday evening unanimously adopted a resolution — a necessary step required by the state –– finalizing the program that will provide cash for six months to be used toward rent. 

Council members initially approved the rental assistance program in April and applications are now closed. 

“The (Tenant Based Rent Assistance) program is currently being offered given the financial hardships residents are enduring,” said Assistant City Manager Aaron France. “Staff anticipates agreements being signed with TBRA recipients early next week and remitting funds late next week.”

The rental assistance money will come from a grant funds through the California Department of Housing & Community Development designed to create and retain affordable housing. The resolution adopted on Tuesday is required by the department for the approval of the funds, according to city staff.

Other Orange County cities are also offering rent assistance programs to residents during the pandemic. Irvine established a similar program in June after months of residents pressing council members there to act. Santa Ana is offering rental assistance as well.

Buena Park has over 23,000 households in a city of almost 82,000 people. The city’s median household income is $72,814 and 13.6% of its residents live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Those in the city’s rental assistance program will receive $1,000 a month for a six-month period. The program will dole out $500,000 in total and will run through the end of the year.

Over 800 people had been preapproved for the program but France said there were a number of them who were unable to turn in the formal application on time.

“We will likely bring this program back to council for some additional funding. At that point there’s a possibility we may open it up again for additional applicants,” France said.

Council member Sunny Youngsun Park said out of hundreds of applicants only 77 were approved.

“I ran into a lot of sad stories about people (who) really need rental assistance but somehow they weren’t able to (apply) or follow with additional information requests in time,” Park said. “Perhaps next time when we bring the program back we want to make an announcement that there will be no exceptions period about missing the deadline.”

To be eligible for the program, a resident’s household income must have been reduced or lost due to the pandemic. Qualification depends on the number of people in a household and their total income. The total income must be 60% or less than the Orange County median income. For a household of four that means $76,850.

The resolution also approves another $500,000 program, initially adopted in April, which provides loans to homeowners to help fix their homes at 1% interest rate. The money for that program is also coming from state grant funds.

Other measures are currently also in place in the city to help renters impacted by the pandemic.

Buena Park also has an eviction moratorium that protects commercial and residential tenants who are unable to pay their rent due to the pandemic. The moratorium has been extended to Sept. 30.

France said officials will probably be looking to add additional funding to the rental assistance program next month. That money would require council approval.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.