An eviction moratorium concerning residential and commercial renters was put in place as an effort to protect thousands of local residents from being evicted for non-payment of rent due to the global health crisis and economic catastrophe COVID-19 has caused.
Many people were left with only a couple of weeks to learn about the temporary laws put in place protecting them from losing their home and or place of business in case they were unable to pay rent on the first month after COVID-19 restrictions.
Unemployment rates have skyrocketed in the past couple weeks — as non-essential businesses are forced to temporarily close as government officials continue to extend restriction orders to prevent the deadly virus from spreading — leaving thousands of people without work and without pay until further notice.
Although temporary laws have been put in place to protect tenants from being evicted in the state of California, some details remain unclear and are causing confusion. Now many local residents are beginning to advocate for rent forgiveness as the eviction moratorium expects residents to pay back due rent after the State of Emergency is lifted.
Community organizations such as the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) have already joined the #foodnotrent movement — a unification of people demanding a rent suspension policy from their local city officials via social media platforms.
Reasons as to why eviction moratoriums are simply not good enough to secure a safe future post COVID-19 were recently presented to city officials in Pasadena.
Some of the comments from local residents during Pasadena’s City Council meeting on March 30 spoke to the terrifying and sad reality of the choices renters in our community face every day.
“This crisis is broader than many people imagine. It is hitting everyone. The only way to keep Pasadena on its feet and stop a complete collapse is to enact a rent suspension.”
Similar initiatives for rent suspension have already begun across the nation and appear to be garnering the support of leaders in congress such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), U.S. representative of New York’s 14th District, who took to twitter last month to speak on the subject.
“I just don’t understand how it’s reasonable to expect what could be millions of people and small businesses, who suddenly had their incomes cut off, to pay rent, mortgages, & major bills on Apr 1st without any payment moratoriums or immediate relief.”
On April 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced rent suspension for disaster survivors in California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas due to the current pandemic. Per the announcement, the suspension applies to rent only and rent collection is expected to resume July 1. People who qualify for rent suspension will be receiving a notification by mail from FEMA.
Local organizations, such as the Los Angeles Tenants Union, have also called for an immediate rent suspension including immigrants who unfortunately have been left out from financial assistance.
The majority of all proposals for rent forgiveness seem to have one common denominator as to why rent suspension is a better solution than eviction moratoriums: debt.
If a tenant living in Pasadena is paying $1,300 for rent and will not be able to pay rent for the next six months based on the speculation that city restrictions will be lifted by then the average tenant will be left with an unforeseen debt of over $7,000 dollars to pay within six months of the State of Emergency being lifted, according to the Pasadena Eviction Moratorium.
Residents will be expected to pay double their rent dues for six months — a perilous burden to face post COVID-19. Details on what will happen if tenants are unable to pay back rent are yet to be determined, but not protecting tenants from being if unable to pay rent may cause a major setback in the efforts achieved to decrease homelessness in Pasadena.
PTU has been leading the initiative for rent forgiveness in Pasadena. Their website is filled with resources for local residents such as a tenant solidarity hotline operated by volunteer members of the Union, bimonthly meetings held every second and fourth Thursday of every month at 7 p.m., and rent-withholding letter samples for tenants just to name a few resources. You can find these by simply visiting their website PasadenaTenantsUnion.org.
PTU will join the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) on a car caravan call-to-action for Governor Gavin Newsome to include all Californians who may not necessarily be benefiting from all the policies put in place protecting residents that are being affected by COVID-19 on Tuesday, April 19.