Economic pressures of coronavirus bearing down increasingly on people living in the United States. Unemployment has skyrocketed. And rents are due. In a NYTimes opinion column today, SLU Urban Studies instructor H. Jacob Carlson, along with NYU’s Gianpaolo Baiocchi, argued that the moment demands nothing short of a rent moratorium:
We need Congress to enact an immediate, 90-day national rent moratorium — a temporary suspension of rent payments that will keep families in their homes before other dominoes start to fall.
This would be a bailout for people — for the countless families already facing difficulties making their next rent payment and who soon will face the real prospect of eviction. If we do not act now, people will lose their access to housing. The social impact of evictions on individuals, families and communities will be brutal.
They observe that 47 percent of renters spend more than a third of their income on rent, and that, “57 percent of renters could not afford an unexpected expense of $400 with the money they have on hand.” Given the precarious situation renters were in before the crisis, the current situation is utterly untenable. And the measures in place aren’t enough.
The eviction moratorium in states like New York is a crucial start but only delays the inevitable. After June 20, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 90-day stay will have lifted, renters will face unpayable debt of months of back-rent and fees, as well as damaged credit. Housing courts will swell with the backlog, and many people will be evicted. Similarly, while freezing rents going up for lease renewal is useful, it will not be enough for families unable to pay current rent prices.