As Covid-19’s effects on the economy continue to spread, many have unfortunately lost income and whole industries have had to pull back operations.
Many of us have felt the repercussions. We discussed some ways to financially adjust to the pandemic, but for so many economic stability has become unattainable. And the most expensive thing that many of us pay for is rent.
Since the beginning of April, the #CancelRent Movement has been advocating for the legal suspension of rent payments effectively executed by state and federal governments.
The role of rent in our budgets
We’ve been told time and again that you should only be spending 30 percent or less of your income on rent. But with rent prices soaring while income stays the same in the US, that math no longer adds up.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University reports that 10.9 million renters spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing in 2018.
The term rent-burdened is used to refer to renters who spend more than that good old 30 percent of their income on housing. And according to that, most of you reading this are more than likely rent-burdened even outside of the Coronavirus pandemic.
While the need for renting assistance has grown, the amount of housing assistance has stayed flat. There are also constrained vacancies for affordable housing because the industry has focused construction on higher more expensive housing.
This all leads to higher and higher rent, while income levels stay the same growing rent-burdened populations. But within the COVID-19 devastating economic situation, the severity of being rent-burdened has increased.
What cancel rent advocates are asking for
Advocacy groups like Housing Justice for All NY have been fighting for renter’s rights for years. Universal Rent Control has been legislation that many have been asking for. You’ve probably heard of rent-controlled apartments.
They’re mythical, impossible to find, because no new apartments are being added to the rent-controlled roster. Plus, many old ones from decades ago are being eliminated and returned to “current value” rent.
Lately, those advocacy groups have started to demand the cancelation of rent. And as time passes and people’s economic situations deteriorate, the #CancelRent movement is growing.
Reminder: it is ILLEGAL for your landlord to access your info via IRS using your SSN and if this happens to you PRESS CHARGES https://t.co/iOVo4tMDk3
— Cass (@fatangryqueer) April 19, 2020
There have been many crazy stories about landlords illegally attempting to punish or push out renters who are late on payments or on rent strike.
Some share stories of landlords telling them that they must vacate the unit if they are sick with COVID-19. Others are receiving threats from landlords who have illegally accessed IRS information using tenant’s social security numbers stating that they know the renter has received their stimulus check.
Still more are stating landlords are cutting power and running water to renters who are late on payments. The pandemic’s effect on our ability to pay also reminds us of just how close we are to financial ruin.
We are far more likely to become homeless than rich.
Housing advocates are also asking for thousands of vacant hotel rooms to be open to the homeless who cannot shelter in place. Shelters are full and unable to handle the requirements of healthy social distancing.
RT garrar26: In times of crisis, NYers protect each other. YOU can protect homeless NYers, their co-workers & shelter staff from #COVID19 by demanding NYCmayor, MayorSheehan , and every Mayor secure hotel rooms for homeless & end sweeps NOW. #HomelessCan… pic.twitter.com/lkKJAF7wJ6
— Clyanna Blyanna (@KikiCocoaa) April 21, 2020
Our Government’s response
So far, several states have already enacted moratoriums on rent. This means that you cannot be taken to court for not paying rent during this time. You also cannot be evicted. Governor Cuomo of NY still believes this is enough to deal with the current rent issue.
But as AOC explained during a virtual town hall hosted by NY Housing Justice for All, that is not enough.
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Listen to @AOC People aren’t striking because they WANT to. We’re striking because we #CantPayMay. We HAVE to. @NYGovCuomo: do the right thing, for everyone. Step in and #CancelRent! Join the housing justice movement bit.ly/cantpaymay or link in bio Cuomo call script bit.ly/HJ4ACallCuomo or link in bio Go to our Facebook @housing4allny for the entire AOC x HJ4A #cancelrent conversation
NY Mayor de Blasio has called for Freezing Rent as well as state approval to pay rent with the security deposit.
He also explained that the City will step in and stop any evictions. He also added that rooms are available for those who cannot shelter in place.
Government representatives like Ilhan Omar and AOC have called for canceling rent during the COVID pandemic.
Rep. Omar introduced a bill that would offer total forgiveness on rent and mortgage payments, starting April 1 until 30 days after the end of the federal state of emergency.
Some of the big takeaways from the bill:
The bill would suspend rent and mortgage payments retroactively to March 13, 2020 and it would last for one year. Renters and mortgage borrowers who have paid for the month of April would be reimbursed.
The Bill also protects landlords and lenders by allowing them to recoup losses by accessing a relief fund created by the federal government via the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The bill also goes beyond that by establishing an affordable housing fund to purchase rental properties to increase housing for low-income applicants.
So are you with #CancelRent? Call your representative to voice your feelings on legislation surrounding rent and mortgage suspensions. If you’re in NY call Cuomo to ask for a more comprehensive response to rent issues.