California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday issued an executive order that allows local governments in the state to halt evictions, potentially throwing a lifeline to millions of people whose wages are drying up amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Oakland in January. Credit: Justin Sullivan and Getty Images

In a statement explaining the order, Newsom argued that “people shouldn’t lose or be forced out of their home because of the spread of COVID-19.” The order specifically allows local jurisdictions to halt evictions for non-payment of rent or foreclosure thanks to “a substantial decrease in household or business income.”

Among other things, the order additionally lets local officials stop evictions for people facing coronavirus-related medical expenses, asks public housing authorities to extend deadlines for assistance requests, and asks banks to halt foreclosures until the crisis abates.

The order’s protections will remain in effect until March 31. Newsom’s statement adds that the “order does not relieve a tenant from the obligation to pay rent, or restrict the landlord’s ability to recover rent that is due.”

The order comes as New York state, as well as cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, have also halted evictions during the coronavirus outbreak. The order in New York followed a pledge from landlords in New York City that they would voluntarily stop evicting people during the crisis.

Ben Caballero — who has repeatedly been ranked the top real estate agent in the U.S. — announced last week that at his properties he too would “suspend all late fees and evictions for those afflicted until further notice.”

The idea that renters and homeowners need protections against eviction appears to be gaining critical mass at the same time that the economy is sputtering. On Monday, for example, the stock market suffered its second worst day in history. The widespread push for “social distancing” and self-quarantining has also led to fears that the coronavirus could ultimately decimate industries such as food service and travel.

In his statement, Newsom said that he issued his order on evictions as the virus is affecting Californian’s ability to “keep up with their rents, mortgages, and utility bills.”

“Over the next few weeks, everyone will have to make sacrifices — but a place to live shouldn’t be one of them,” Newsom added in the statement. “I strongly encourage cities and counties [to] take up this authority to protect Californians.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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