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03/31/2020 | Federal Advocacy: Fighting Back & Fighting Forward, Organizing for Housing Justice & A Home to Thrive

Housing Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Cancel Rent and Mortgages

The day before rent payments are due, 200 housing advocates call a virtual townhall with elected leaders

03.31.2020

 

NATIONWIDE -- Tomorrow, millions of families across the United States will be unable to make their rent and mortgage payments due to unemployment and illness. The economic and public health crises caused by coronavirus have compounded for families that were already feeling the strain of mounting rent and insignificant wages. 

As they scramble today to pull together enough money for April’s rent and mortgage payments, 200 housing advocates from across the Center for Popular Democracy network came together with Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to share their stories and call for federal action to cancel rent and mortgages for the extent of the coronavirus crisis.

New estimates hold that the unemployment rate in the United States could reach as high as 32 percent and 67 million people across the country work jobs that are at high risk of layoffs. Already, over three million have filed for unemployment insurance and 5.5 percent of the country is estimated to be unemployed.

“Housing is health care right now. I am urging Congress to work for the 99 percent. We don’t need bail outs. We, the 99 percent, need to survive,” said Ruby Gordillo, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “My family and I have been underhoused for six years. We paid nearly $1,000 rent for a studio apartment. Before that, we were homeless. My husband used to sleep in the back of his vehicle. It will be two weeks tomorrow that we will have been in this house that we reclaimed in El Sereno. It sat empty. With the coronavirus crisis, it was urgent for us to take this action. Community members furnished the home for us, have been helping with child care for my children, and have been helping with groceries. This has made such a difference for me and my family during this COVID-19 crisis. In California, we are asking the Governor to allow people to stay in vacant homes during this crisis.” 

“I have been out of work for two weeks. My wife is a bus driver and got laid off when she came back from spring break. We have all payments coming up -- car insurance, utilities, rent. I am a cancer survivor and transplant patient. I am immunocompromised and cannot drive Uber anymore. I know if I get this virus, it will be devastating for me,” said Roberto Rodriguez, a member of Organize Florida. “We are struggling right now. We need the federal government to step up and help us. We need to cancel rent.”

Though the federal government passed a relief package, it does not include the protections that housing insecure and houseless individuals need to survive this crisis. While there is a freeze on evictions and foreclosures for people who live in federal properties or have federally-backed loans, this only applies to half of the people who need housing assistance. Advocates on the call noted that future relief packages must include rent and mortgage cancellation for all people. Their further demands include a freeze on utility shut-offs, a moratorium on work requirements for public housing, and a housing emergency fund for people who need assistance.

“We know that many families were struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table. And now they are left with little to no option. As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we know things are becoming even more dire for people and their families,” said Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). “Tomorrow, on April 1st, things will become even more painful for millions if we do not cancel rent and cancel mortgages. This is a public health crisis and every aspect of our lives should be treated as such. Cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the COVID-19 virus pandemic would relieve financial pressure, allow residents to stay home from work without the added concern of losing their housing and limit the spread of the virus.”

“It is always communities of color, working class families and immigrants that are hit the hardest in crises. Many of my constituents are worried about how they are going to pay their rent. They are worried about whether they will lose their jobs and their homes and if their children are going to be able to continue learning,” said Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (D-MI). “I introduced a bill before this big relief package to forbid evictions and foreclosures during the crisis. A more modest version got passed in the recent package, which prevents evictions and foreclosures for 60 percent of people. But it is not enough. What about the other 40 percent? We need to keep fighting. Please keep up the fight with me so that everyone can keep their home and their job. Now, more than ever, we need to have each others’ backs.”

“If the federal government will propose a half a trillion dollar slush fund for corporations, why won’t they cancel rent and mortgages for the people who need it the most?” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “The White House is busy trying to bail out big corporations. The last stimulus package is not nearly what our families need and deserve. Working people, especially our immigrant brothers and sisters, are left out of that bill. It is the duty of the federal government to cancel rent and mortgages so that people can stay in their homes.”

Tele-townhall recording is available at this link

 

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Media Contact: Lia Weintraub, lweintraub@populardemocracy.org, 202-618-2482

 
Tuesday, March 31, 2020