New Yorkers move to cancel rent for the duration of COVID-19

The renters of Ithaca, in Upstate New York, are picketing their local mayor to cancel rent for the duration of the pandemic. Whether they succeed or fail, they’re the first city in America to do so. 

 

 

A new development in Ithaca, New York could render the city the first in the U.S. to cancel rent during for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. Postponing rent is one thing, but this city wants to eliminate the debt of renters completely during this trying time.

Ithaca is a city of Upstate New York where almost three-quarters of the residents are renters. With COVID-19 forcing many out of work, a new resolution has instilled the mayor with the power to cancel rent debt from the last three months for both tenants and small businesses. It will also see rents frozen and will require landlords to offer tenants lease extensions.

The resolution still needs state government approval, though housing activists are confident that will happen. Whatever the outcome, Ithaca still stands as the first city in the United States to act on what has been nation-wide calls to cancel rent because of the pandemic.

New York, like many other well-intentioned states, did instate a temporary ban on evictions due to the crisis. However, this ban failed to address the fact that renters who lost jobs while the economy contracted are unlikely to unable to cover the outstanding rent when the eviction ban ends. 

 

The resolution still needs state government approval, though housing activists are confident that will happen. Whatever the outcome, Ithaca still stands as the first city in the United States to act on what has been nation-wide calls to cancel rent because of the pandemic.

 

“It’s sort of rescheduling the problem rather than solving it,” says Genevieve Rand, an organiser for Ithaca Tenants Union. “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.”

Ithaca’s resolution calls for more funding from the state to cover rent to avoid landlords losing money, though Rand emphasises that tenants are naturally in a more precarious position.

Typically, such a resolution wouldn’t require state approval. However, the governor signed an executive order during the pandemic requiring local orders to require approval from the state’s health department. The action was to prevent cities from circumventing the state’s lockdown orders, but the rent freeze resolution will have to go through the same process. Rand and her associates are confident though: “Preventing homelessness is in the interest of public health,” she says.

 

 

 

 

Share via