An Alameda County landlord began a hunger strike on Sunday to protest an ongoing eviction ban that he says has pushed him to the brink of bankruptcy.
Jinyu Wu, 53, an immigrant from China, has a rental property in San Leandro, but says his tenant hasn’t paid him for three years due to an eviction moratorium implemented in 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic.
A mother and children rented a unit from Wu shortly before the pandemic started, but now haven't paid rent for 37 months. Wu says the tenants owe him around $120,000 in unpaid rent.
Because of the moratorium, tenants can’t be kicked out if they can’t pay their rent—although the policy also states that the tenants eventually have to pay what they owe.
Nearly three years after Covid struck, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has continued to enforce the moratorium. The topic is set to be discussed at a Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday.
“We worked night and day for our new life and our American dream,” Wu said in a letter to the board. “Today, our property has been stolen from us by you, by this draconian eviction moratorium.”
Wu started his hunger strike at the Alameda County Administration Building in Oakland during inclement weather; a dozen landlords and advocates have come out to support him since. One of Wu's signs said, "Hunger Strike Until Die!"
The tenants could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jennifer Liu, a Wu supporter and the president of the Business And Housing Network—a nonprofit that bills itself as a defender of mom-and-pop landlords—urged the board to end the moratorium as soon as possible.
“California’s Covid emergency will end after tomorrow (Feb. 28),” she said. “And the eviction moratorium must end, too.”
There are rent relief programs for landlords, but according to Liu, the amount they can get is inadequate and Wu didn't get anything. The programs also require cooperation between landlords and tenants to prove that Covid impacted their income, something Wu says is difficult to achieve.
The board is expected to ask for a report on available resources to support tenants and landlords after the eviction moratorium expires at Tuesday’s meeting.
Supervisor David Haubert told the San Jose Mercury News that he planned to support ending the moratorium policy because “it has outlived its original purpose.”
Liu said Wu’s situation was unstable Monday, as he has diabetes and is showing signs of high blood pressure. Wu said he will continue his hunger strike until the county ends the eviction ban.
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org