Citing the “unprecedented crisis” of Covid-19 coupled with widespread economic hardship, Rep. Ilhan Omar on Thursday reintroduced a bill that would cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the pandemic.
The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act (pdf) would grant full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of housing debt and no negative impact on credit scores or rental histories. The bill would also create a relief fund to reimburse landlords and mortage holders for losses incurred as a result of the forgiveness.
Additionally, Omar’s (D-Minn.) proposal establishes an optional buyout fund so that state and local governments, public housing authorities, community land trusts, nonprofit organizations, and cooperatives can purchase private rental properties.
The bill is co-sponsored by 24 progressive Democratic lawmakers, including every fellow member of “The Squad”—Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).
“Right now, we are facing an unprecedented crisis that has put millions of Americans at risk of housing instability and homelessness,” Omar said in a statement introducing the bill.
“While the American Rescue Plan extends the national rent moratorium, this is not a long-term solution,” she continued, referencing legislation signed by President Joe Biden on Thursday. “People across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends. In some cases, local governments are allowing evictions to continue despite the moratorium. In other cases, landlords are going bankrupt due to lack of income.”
“To avoid an even larger crisis, we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this pandemic,” Omar asserted. “This isn’t a radical idea. It’s what is needed to prevent an even bigger crisis.”
Indeed, as Common Dreams reported last April, a majority of Americans across the political spectrum support cancelling mortgage and rent payments until the pandemic is over.
Last month, a diverse coalition of more than 200 organizations called on the Biden administration and Congress to cancel rent and enact housing debt forgiveness. Progressives have answered their call by reintroducing Omar’s bill.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in the statement that “no person should ever face housing insecurity—especially during a global pandemic.”
“Congress just passed crucial [Covid-19] relief, but millions of Americans still fear losing their homes due to the weight of rent and mortgage payments,” Pocan added. “This legislation ensures that working families never have to choose between putting food on the table and roof over their head. The American people’s safety must continue to be the federal government’s most important priority.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a co-sponsor of the bill and chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, stressed that “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.”