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Human Resources Department

Commission on Human Rights

Statement of Support for Right to Roof Protections

Commission on Human Rights 500

We recognize that many within our community have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that their ability to pay rent, buy food and take care of normal financial responsibilities may not be a choice for them. We are human rights commissioners, and we are also renters, landlords, workers and neighbors. The Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights strongly encourages our local government to work with state and federal governments to find solutions to the following:

Affordable Housing is a Right and a Cornerstone of an Equitable Society

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves(sic) and of their(sic) family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Renters, landlords and homeowners with mortgages are all suffering because of this global pandemic. On March 24, 2020, the Board of Supervisors took action to approve the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Ordinance, effective immediately and for the duration of the declared Local Emergency in Sonoma County. This ordinance creates a legal defense for tenants who live anywhere in Sonoma County and are being evicted due to non-payment of rent and who can demonstrate financial losses due to lost work or medical expenses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The ordinance requires that tenants who use this defense share that information with their landlord to support claims for any prospective mortgage relief. The Ordinance will continue for 60 days after the end of the emergency. Rent is not forgiven for tenants with a hardship, but landlords must work with tenants on a rent repayment program that will allow tenants to stay housed during this emergency.

This ordinance does not do enough for the Citizens of Sonoma County. It does not address the payment of mortgages by homeowners or landlords. If you have not been able to pay your rent or mortgage for 60 days because of the pandemic, you will not have funds to pay the delinquent payments and the current payments due when this emergency is over.

This will require local governments working with the state, federal government, banks and others holding mortgages to come up with a rent/mortgage forgiveness program that may need to extend up to 6 months after the pandemic. This would relieve financial pressure, allowing people to stay home from work without the added concern of losing their housing and limit the spread of the virus.

Displacement does not make our communities stronger. Increased homelessness does not make our communities stronger. We understand that there will be a need for guidelines and rules to make such a program work.

Sonoma County city municipalities should come up with a plan to help those citizens needing assistance with utility bills, prohibit utility shut offs, rate increases and restore service to all households. 

Help for our Homeless and Undocumented Community Members

The most vulnerable of our community, the homeless need to be provided emergency shelter, food and sanitation stations to keep them safe and provide a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being. Cease displacement of homeless encampments. Ensure quarantine options are made available.

The undocumented in our community normally hold jobs that others won’t do in our agriculture, hospitality, domestic and other industries. They need to be protected from food shortages, loss of housing and access to health care.

By August 1st the Board of Supervisors will comply with state law SB54 to participate in and fund a countywide town hall meeting on issues impacting the immigrant community, including a TRUTH Act report from Sheriff Essick. To ensure language and cultural competency, this will be planned and facilitated by community organizations.

Make a rapid shift to democratic transparency because the impacts of this crisis continue to escalate. Turn vacant units into safe homes.

With these measures in place, our essential workers, our children and elders, our undocumented community (pandemics don’t care about documentation), homeowners, small business owners, renters, and homeless people have a chance to come out of this crisis Sonoma Strong/Sonoma Fuerte!

We urge our elected officials to implement these protective measures without delay. This may be our greatest challenge. It is also our greatest opportunity to rebuild with the equity based systemic and institutional changes that are essential for this community’s survival.

Signed this 24th day of April, 2020

Dmitra Smith, 1st District Chair 
Faith Ross, 2nd District Vice Chair
Howard Sapper, 1st District Officer-at-Large
Jerry Threet, 5th District
Tamara Murrell, 5th District
Zahrya Garcia, 2nd District

575 Administration Drive, Suite 116B
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: 707-565-2693