A city in Central New York is first in America to officially propose canceling rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
WSKG reports the Ithaca Common Council has passed a resolution asking the state and federal government to provide rent and mortgage assistance in Ithaca, N.Y., where 70 percent of residents are renters. If financial aid isn’t possible, the council is asking New York state to grant Mayor Svante Myrick the authority to cancel rent debt from the last three months, both for tenants and small businesses.
According to Fast Company, Ithaca is the first U.S. city to propose a #CancelTheRents measure after Covid-19 shutdowns devastated the economy, putting more than 40 million Americans out of work.
New York and other states have temporarily banned evictions but haven’t addressed how newly unemployed people will be able to pay outstanding rent when the ban ends.
“It’s sort of rescheduling the problem rather than solving it,” Ithaca Tenants Union organizer Genevieve Rand told Fast Company. “There’s still the reality of the fact there’s not enough money going into the pockets of a lot of poor people. And rescheduling the time where they’ll be punished for that with eviction isn’t the same as actually keeping us safe.”
However, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (NY-23) told WSKG that he doesn’t support the “utopian and unrealistic” idea of cancelling rent.
“Really? You think that this can work?” the Republican congressman said. “In the sense that you can waive rent and you can not have consequences that are going to impact those same people that you are trying to help.”
According to the Ithaca Voice, though, rent cancellation still wouldn’t happen in the immediate future. Due to New York state’s emergency declaration, the resolution would have to be first approved by New York State Department of Health to give the mayor power to issue an executive order forgiving three months of rent. The Common Council would then need to approve the order, which also seeks to allow Myrick to prohibit eviction of residential or small-business tenants, and “obligate” landlords to offer lease extensions at the current rent level.
“Even if granted these powers, would I cancel rent tomorrow? I wouldn’t,” Myrick told the Voice. “What I would do is put together a working group that would allow us to find real rent relief that likely would include rent cancellation but it would only come in partnership with relief for small landlords and homeowners.”
Via Oregon Live
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