County Rent Relief Program money went to ineligible cities

Written by Urvi Sakurikar

In August, the board of Supervisors launched a $27 million rent relief program to assist 10,000 low-income families that had been impacted by the pandemic.  The money was only supposed to benefit cities that had already depleted the funds in their own rental assistance budget, and the supervisors made that clear.

However, a ZIP code data analysis revealed that 75% of that money was distributed among cities that had money to spare such as Chula Vista, La Mesa, San Diego, and El Cajon.

Without approval from their superiors and for no clear reason, the board staff allowed residents of the aforementioned cities to benefit from the program while neglecting cities such as Carlsbad and National City, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

“If we were excluded, other cities with their own openly available programs should have been excluded as well out of fairness,” said Carlos Aguirre, director of the National City Housing Authority.

County spokesman Michael Workman did not give any explanations regarding the money sent to Chula Vista, El Cajon and La Mesa, and ignored requests for an interview with Nathan Fletcher.

Escondido and National City housing officials have called out the San Diego County Housing Commission for excluding their cities from the program, and Mayor McNamara of Escondido has requested his staff investigate the matter.

Unfortunately, the August package is not the only example of mismanagement of relief funds. Another $5 million rent relief program was approved in October, but the money has not been touched. The Housing Commission has declined to issue any statements regarding the timeline of spending that money, despite the fact that thousands of San Diegans are behind on rent right now.