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North Bay Q&A: Thousands of Sonoma County renters falling behind due to pandemic

in Housing
Ian Velasquez, his partner Amy Sprague and their son Neveo, 2, are nearly $17,000 behind in the rent on their Sebastopol home after roommates lost their jobs and had to move out at the beginning of the pandemic. More than 1 million California rental households face an estimate $3.7 billion rental debt. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Amid the prolonged coronavirus pandemic, Ian Velasquez, who works full time as a union official representing public school employees, has struggled to pay monthly rent on the three-bedroom Sebastopol home where he lives with his partner Amy Sprague and their 2-year-old son Neveo.

Paying about half of what he owes each month, he’s accumulated rent debt of $17,000 — a sum that rises $1,600 every month with no end in sight.

“It’s a really heavy weight,” said Velasquez, who is losing sleep to anxiety over his financial predicament.

He worked side jobs even when the rent was shared with two roommates, who moved out in April when their jobs evaporated in the coronavirus shutdown.

Velasquezes are one of California’s 1.1 million renter households behind on an estimated $3.7 billion in rent in December, according to a report by the Bay Area Equity Atlas and Housing NOW! California last month

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