On Thursday, Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota reintroduced a bill to cancel rent and mortgage payments until 2022, citing the lingering coronavirus pandemic as reason for the piece of legislation.
A press release from Omar’s office said the bill would “institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.” It would set up “full payment forgiveness,” and would not result in financial debt for renters or homeowners. It also states that it would not have a negative effect on the credit rating or rental history of renters and homeowners.
The legislation would reportedly “establish a relief fund” for mortgage holders and landlords in order to make up for any financial deprivation they would suffer because of the canceled payments from their tenants. In addition to the relief money, the bill would also make a voluntary “buyout fund” that would finance in full “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.”
Relieving homeowners and renters of housing payments has been a priority for Omar. Originally, the congresswoman introduced the legislation in April of last year. In December 2020, she began discussing it again and garnering support for the concept as coronavirus case numbers were peaking in the United States. When it was first introduced in April, it did not receive a vote as Republicans still had control of the Senate.
When Omar discussed the bill on Thursday, she noted that while housing opportunity was a problem before the pandemic, the struggles of the past year have made it worse. She acknowledged that the current $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package “extends the national rent moratorium,” but added that it is “not a long-term solution.”
“The people across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends,” she added. “In some cases, local governments are allowing evictions to continue despite the moratorium. In other cases, landlords are going bankrupt due to the lack of income.”
“The solution is to cancel rent and mortgage payments,” she concluded, clarifying that the act would permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments until April 2022.
Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) is a cosponsor of the bill, and stated her support for the bill on Thursday.
“Housing is a critical determinant of health, economic opportunity and social mobility,” said Pressley. “With the economic impact of this pandemic worsening and the threat of eviction and homelessness looming large for families nationwide, we must take every measure possible to keep families safely housed, forgive all rental debt, and ensure that the credit scores of hard hit families are not forever tarnished.”
Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) also supported the bill, saying, “…the federal government needs to step up and provide relief for renters while also ensuring that small mom and pop landlords who rely on rental income for survival aren’t left behind … It is not enough to sit back and just hope that a patchwork of eviction moratoriums keep families in their homes; we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this crisis because housing is a human right — during a pandemic and always.”
Dianne Enriquez is the Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy, a group that “works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions,” according to its website.
Enriquez showed support for Omar’s bill on Thursday. “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,” she said. “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 immediately.”
The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Raúl M. Grijalva, Mondaire Jones, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Bennie G. Thompson, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nydia M. Velázquez, Rashida Tlaib, Yvette D. Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Frederica S. Wilson, Jan Schakowsky, James P. McGovern, Jimmy Gomez, André Carson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler, and Cori Bush.