Housing Group in New York Calls for Rent Strike

As of Thursday, April 16, millions of Americans have received their stimulus money deposited into their banks, with millions more bringing the IRS website to a complete halt while seeing if they’re eligible. Tens of millions of people from all around the nation need money for their living expenses, and many simply are not getting it. In some places like New York, this hasn’t stopped landlords and mortgage lenders from still demanding rent, even though they’re fully aware of what’s going on, and it’s causing more than a mild uproar. People are outright angry over the refusal of property owners to eat losses like every other American has to, through no fault of their own.

The issue, according to New York City housing activists, is that Governor Andrew Cuomo has not issued any order for rent to stop being paid. One reason is that many fear a larger domino effect if that happens, though the people who don’t have a lot of money to begin with are the ones who may end up without a place to live, not the people who own the houses. So the group has called for all New Yorkers to stop paying rent May 1 to show their solidarity.

In a joint statement from Housing Justice for All and New York Communities for Change, the groups stated that many New Yorkers are “unable to pay rent for the foreseeable future,” so the current crisis has become “unsustainable and demands action.” Landlords are still expecting their rent, however, and most have not stopped trying to collect. According to these groups, they pressed for rent even harder after stimulus money started being released, which was forcing some people to choose between food and rent.

Things are not as bad as they seem in the New York housing industry, however. Since the start of March, only 16% of tenants have failed to pay rent. The other 84% are still paying full or partial rent. Of course, the issue here is in that 14% unable to pay. They’re already at a much lower income bracket and have to struggle to make it work even with a flourishing economy. An economic recession hits them the hardest, and the fastest.

According to housing activist Lena Melendez, landlords have already been “looked after,” receiving a lot of deferments and tax abatements that will help them eat the losses without having to feel the sting. The poorer residents of New York City, however, may wind up without a place to live if they cannot pay their rent, or if Cuomo doesn’t decide to halt the payment of rent until the economy is again back on its feet.

A United Front is Sought

While the New York housing activists and groups are focused on their city, they also have their eyes turned toward the rest of the nation. They believe that it should come as a presidential executive order that all rent should be halted, or at least landlords and mortgage companies must halt evictions and interest payments and help work out payment plans with residents. Their feeling is that if something like this is only asked for in a vacuum, it emboldens landlords to be even greedier, as they can look around the nation and see that other landlords are not following suit.

These are turning out to be very hard times for a whole lot of people. What strikes people like Melendez the most ironic is that, while the Governor has issued a lock-down order, and while the President also suggests the same thing, meaning people need to stay in their homes, some may end up on the street at risk of exposure because they lost their jobs.

While it might be impolitic to blame certain nations for the current novel Coronavirus, activists like Melendez have trouble accepting that New Yorkers, in America, are going to end up punished for things they had no part in. After all, it’s not as if people quit their jobs on purpose and just refused to pay. It’s a nationwide recession, with the entire economy shut down except for essential businesses. Most businesses are not essential.

New York has gone through a lot over the years. The people there are proud and are hoping that they pull through this as well. However, if more people end up on the streets and the virus continues to spread, this will just prolong the lock-down and recession, so it’s actually landlords with the power to not only help suffering people, but also to help halt the spread of the virus.

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