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Rep. Barbara Lee Wants to End Evictions for Renters for as Long as We Are in Crisis Mode

Illustration for article titled Rep. Barbara Lee Wants to End Evictions for Renters for as Long as We Are in Crisis Mode
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

On Monday, The Root reported that a 60-day moratorium on evictions issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) may mostly protect homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage due to the coronavirus crisis, but not so much for renters, leaving it to local governments to pick up the slack. Fortunately for the estimated 40 million renters throughout the U.S., there are some state representatives who have their backs.

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According to CBS SF, California Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and co-sponsor Jesus Garcia from Chicago introduced a bill in the House of Representatives on Monday that would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants as long as the COVID-19 coronavirus remains active as a national health emergency.

“As more workers are losing their jobs or having their hours limited, families are put at risk of missing rent or forgoing food on the table,” Lee said in a statement on the House floor. “This important legislation ensures that renters in the Bay Area and the nation cannot be evicted from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must ensure that everyone has access to quality housing no matter their financial situation.”

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From CBS SF:

Lee and Garcia said the bill would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants due to failure to pay rent or other causes unless the tenant commits a serious criminal act that would endanger the health, life and safety of other tenants.

They said the bill would self-terminate six months after the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency ends the coronavirus emergency that’s been declared by President Donald Trump.

The new bill will be part of a COVID-19 stimulus package introduced in the House called the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act.”

In Lee’s own state of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently issued an executive order stating that local governments can impose eviction moratoriums for tenants who can’t pay their rent for reasons related to the coronavirus outbreak. Other states have issued similar types of order but that only helps renters on a local level. Lee’s bill which, besides Garcia, has 39 other co-sponsors would aid renters nation-wide on a federal level.

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Millions of workers, especially hourly workers, across the nation have lost much-needed pay due to shutdowns of non-essential businesses amid the pandemic. And if you’ve ever had to live check-to-check, you know how one missed paycheck can put you in danger of having your lease terminated and possibly being put out on the street, which we already know housing instability and homelessness can put us at greater risk for exposure to COVID-19 and its transmission. 

People need help and something has got to give. Individual counties, cities and states taking the initiative to protect their renters from losing their homes aren’t enough. Now is the time for Capitol Hill to step in, which is why bills like Lee’s are absolutely necessary.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

This sounds fine as long as there are also protections for landlords. Most landlords are not large corporations. They are individuals who own a couple of rental properties. Those properties have mortgages. Without rent, the landlords will not be able to pay the mortgages.

Additionally, unless there is some type of mortgage forgiveness for the landlords, many tenants will get evicted after it is over. For example, if this was to go on for 6 months (I don’t think it will), at the end of the period, if the landlord has to make up for 6 months of missed payments, they will in turn ask for six months of past rent from the tenants. At the very least, those six months will need to be added to  the end of the mortgage without additional interest.