Los Angeles City Councilmen David Ryu and Mike Bonin joined municipal and county leaders from across the nation Wednesday to call on the federal government to enact a freeze on rent and mortgage payments during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Los Angeles councilmen said simply allowing residents and business owners to delay rent payments could still leave people vulnerable to eviction. They said tenants may still be unable to pay their rent back after the pandemic subsides because they haven’t been working.
Ryu described the current economic conditions as a “domino effect.”
“When a business closes due to a stay-at-home order or for any other reason, that results in a loss of jobs,” Ryu said. “And when Americans are laid off, it results in an inability for them to pay their rents, which in turn results in the apartment landlords’ inability to pay their mortgages.”
Los Angeles has imposed moratoriums on evictions if people fail to pay rent until the pandemic is over, but residents will still have to pay the full amount of back-rent owed within 12 months, while commercial tenants will have three months to pay.
Bonin said the nation is only seeing the early phases of what will be “unprecedented social and economic trauma” from the coronavirus.
He said the crisis has made the problems of income inequality and lack of housing availability “profoundly worse.”
“I have never heard from so many people, scared, anxious, in distress about their families and their future,” Bonin said. “Things are rough and they are scary for millions of people.”
Ryu called on Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, to introduce a bill that would provide rent and mortgage forgiveness for the millions of renters, homeowners and business owners affected by the pandemic.
“We cannot let a pandemic throw millions of Americans into unmanageable debt,” Ryu said. “The economy around working people has collapsed.”
Ryu wrote to state leaders Tuesday, asking them to move the property tax deadline from April 10 to July 15 to match the deadline delay of the federal Internal Revenue Service.
Ryu and Bonin joined council members from Philadelphia, Seattle, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City and City and County supervisors from San Francisco for a teleconference calling for rent and mortgage forgiveness.
New York City Councilman Brad Lander, whose city has been dubbed the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, said people may find themselves destitute by the end of the pandemic. He noted that the $2 trillion federal stimulus package does not provide money for people without American citizenship — a demographic heavily represented in New York and Los Angeles.
San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who co-hosted the teleconference, said her city is looking to work with banks to halt mortgage collections during the pandemic.
“As we are fighting to stop the pandemic, we also need to be doing everything to stop the next Great Depression and get this economy back up and running as soon as we get it under control,” Ronen said.
Wednesday’s teleconference meeting fell victim to “Zoombombing,” the latest trend in people trying to disrupt meetings, with a hacker disrupting comments by Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym. Another hacker broke into the event while San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney spoke.
As the calls for rent and mortgage payments to be halted during the pandemic increase, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment issued a statement calling on renters to strike if rent freezes are not put in place.
The ACCE demanded Gov. Gavin Newsom implement freezes by May 1 or they will ask renters to withhold payments.
“We can’t go to the governor’s office and demonstrate,” said Leah Simon-Weisberg, the ACCE’s legal director. “There’s all these things we can’t do. But you know what every single tenant can do … is they can hold onto their rent.”