SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The California statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire today. For millions of Californians, that means they are no longer relieved from rental debt.
“I’m a tenant and mother who lost work during the pandemic, and my landlord continues to send letters threatening eviction even though I’ve submitted a declaration,” said Charlsetta Burks, a member of Senior and Disability Action San Francisco. “I finally got my rent relief application in after an incredibly grueling and inaccessible process but have yet to hear back. Why would Newsom end protections for families like mine, when most haven’t seen any relief?”
In response to the expiration, over a hundred tenants marched from the Embarcadero Plaza over to the Veritas Investments headquarters on Market and Bush Street yesterday. Veritas has over $4 billion in assets in California and owns over 5,000 homes in San Francisco. The company also referred to itself as San Francisco’s biggest landlord and received $3.6 million in PPP loans, despite opposition from even the likes of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has millions of dollars in real estate investments.
Members of the Veritas Tenants Association also staged a peaceful sit-in, calling it a “debt strike”, inside the lobby of the Veritas office to demand a renegotiation of their debt. However, after peacefully sitting in for over two hours, the SFPD zip-tied and arrested them. Protestors showed their solidarity as the members were escorted into police vans.
Tenants that rallied outside of the Veritas office still called for a negotiation even after the arrests.
“I’d been in my building for 30 years,” said Debbie Nunez, a member of the Veritas Tenants Association and longtime tenant at one of the buildings in the Tenderloin. “I, along with others, had to negotiate with them for probably a year and a half, make them come to the negotiation table, and sit down with us. There’s a lot of stress, a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, and I think they just need to do the right thing and they know it.”
According to a press release by the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco and Tenants Together, Veritas tenants have around $5.7 million in rent debt, which is less than the amount the company borrowed in PPP loans. The company was also backed by the Texas Permanent School Fund with a $90 million investment to expand in Los Angeles.
Yet despite receiving ample funding, Veritas are leaving many tenants in fear of losing their homes, even if they’re rent-controlled.
“Especially as a rent-controlled tenant, you sort of have a target on your back,” said Nunez. “That’s just the reality.”
But the tenants aren’t losing hope. As they’ll need to continue to seek relief from excessive debts, so too will they continue the negotiations with the company.
“We know that money is limited. And so part of what is so incredible about VTA strikers is that what they’re saying is we need to prioritize these funds because they understand as tenants in San Francisco, that the need is great,” said Maria Ixchel Zamudio, Organizing Director of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco.
“There are some landlords who can’t weather the storm, but Veritas is not one of them. Resources should go to those that are actually needed. If they have the ability to zero out your tenants’ debt, they should do so! But Veritas won’t do that because they are legally responsible to send 90% of their profits to their investors. That is why Veritas should not be receiving public funds. They should zero out their debt permanently because they have more than enough money to do so.”
Photo by Savannah Kuang