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Rep. Ilhan Omar introduces bill to cancel all rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic

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WASHINGTON— Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) unveiled the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would constitute a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history. The legislation will establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses from the cancelled payments and create an optional fund to fully finance the purchase of private rental properties by non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments—in order to increase the availability of affordable housing during this downturn.

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), and Grace Meng (D-NY). 

“The coronavirus crisis is more than just a public health crisis—it’s an economic crisis. Minnesotans are losing jobs, getting their hours reduced, and struggling just to put food on the table. We must take major action to protect the health and economic security of the most vulnerable, including the millions of Americans currently at risk of housing instability and homelessness,” said Rep. Omar. “Congress has a responsibility to step in to stabilize both local communities and the housing market during this time of uncertainty and crisis. In 2008, we bailed out Wall Street. This time, it’s time to bail out the American people who are suffering.” 

“Housing is a critical determinant of public health, and that has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Pressley. “We must take bold, urgent action that meets the scale and scope of this crisis, and keeps families whole. By cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of this public health emergency, the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act affirms that housing is a human right and ensures that no person or family is forced to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head during this unprecedented crisis.”

“The federal government must step up to provide relief for vulnerable renters while also ensuring that small mom and pop landlords who rely on rental income for survival aren’t left behind,” said Rep. Jayapal. “I have pushed for a nationwide moratorium on rent-based evictions and foreclosures, called on financial institutions to do their part, and proposed the Housing is a Human right Act to invest more than $300 billion in housing infrastructure. This legislation furthers these goals and establishes significant emergency relief for landlords and mortgage holders. In this time of crisis, we need to act boldly to provide crucial lifelines to meet this most basic of needs.”

The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act is also endorsed by People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, Take Action MN, National Coalition for the Homeless, PolicyLink, Public Advocates, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Action Center on Race and the Economy, Islamic Relief USA, Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Community Voices Heard NY, Jane Addams Senior Caucus IL, KC Tenants MO, LUCHA AZ, Maine People’s Alliance, New Jersey Citizen Action, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition NY, ONE Northside IL, People Organized for Westside Renewal CA, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, PUSH Buffalo NY, Reclaim Philadelphia PA, San Francisco Rising CA, Washington CAN VOCAL NY, Housing Justice for All New York , New York Communities for Change, Organize Florida, Texas Organizing Project, Make the Road NV, Make the Road PA, New Florida Majority Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment Action, Arkansas Community Organization Detroit Action Spaces In Action MD, Churches United for Fair Housing NY, One Pennsylvania Housing Now! CA, and Our Future West Virginia.

“We cannot allow this public health crisis to worsen the housing crisis we are already in. Displacement does not make our communities stronger. Increased homelessness does not make our communities stronger. Right now, we should be focused on protecting the vulnerable from COVID-19, and not risk making more people vulnerable. Because this is not a matter of ‘if’ people will pay their rent- this is about how we formalize the reality that the rent is already cancelled because people can’t pay,” said Jeremiah Ellison, Minneapolis City Council Member.

“The Coronavirus pandemic exposes our failures to consider and guarantee housing as a human right, and the current emergency deepens the wounds of racial and economic inequity in housing. Due to layoffs and mass unemployment, even more renters are making choices between food and rent, accruing debts, and at risk of being forced from their homes. The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation act offers the only solution that can meet the scale and depth of our immediate needs related to housing, and establish a new framework for longterm recovery. Congress must act to suspend rents and mortgages, and to prevent a 2008-style disastrous real estate bonanza,” said Tara Raghuveer, Homes Guarantee Campaign Director, People’s Action. 

“On April 1st, millions of tenants were unable to pay rent. In two short weeks, rent and mortgage payments will be due again. With no clear end to this crisis in sight, it is impossible for families to prepare for the economic fallout that will come if we are expected to continue to pay rent while we are unable to earn income. Representative Omar’s bill to cancel rent and mortgages for the duration of the housing crisis would mean that the millions of families across the country who have lost their jobs are able to stay in their homes and not go into crushing debt during this crisis. Cancelling rent and mortgages also ensures that undocumented people who were locked out of federal relief have a level of reprieve. Relief cannot wait. We need Congress to pass this bill by April 30th,” said Dianne Enriquez, Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy.

You can read the full bill text here and find more details on the bill here.

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