Housing in Brief: #CancelRent Fails in San Jose

And: Rent relief for subsidized housing residents in Atlanta, and a sharp drop in rent payments around the country. 

San Jose City Hall (Photo by Thomas Hawk / CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Rent Suspension Fails in San Jose

During the last few weeks, a growing number of housing activists have been calling for the cancellation of rent payments nationwide as the coronavirus outbreak has led to unprecedented job losses and widespread economic damage. And on Monday, two city council members in San Jose proposed an ordinance to do just that, according to San Jose Spotlight.

City council members Magdalena Carrasco and Raul Peralez introduced a proposal on Monday that would waive rent for three months for tenants unable to pay because of coronavirus-related income losses, according to the report. They argued that even with an eviction moratorium in place, income losses would turn the city’s already high rents into an unpayable debt for many families over the next few months, according to the report.

“It is our job to look further down the line and not only protect our community’s health but their housing and economic security as well,” Peralez said, according to the story.

But by Tuesday, the plan was dead. In a city council meeting, the Spotlight reported, the city attorney determined that San Jose would be responsible for paying landlords the lost rent or else in danger of a range of lawsuits accusing the city of unlawfully taking their property. The council members who proposed the plan are reportedly looking at other options, including how landlords can pass on the benefit of federal mortgage relief to their tenants. But it was not a propitious sign for the #CancelRent movement.

Fewer Tenants Paid Rent in April

Only 69 percent of tenants in apartments in the U.S. paid their rent by April 5, according to a study from the National Multifamily Housing Council. That’s a significant reduction from March, when 81 percent of tenants paid rent by the 5th, according to the report. The Council’s “Rent Payment Tracker” includes data from 13.4 million apartment units across the country.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant health and financial challenges for apartment residents and multifamily owners, operators and employees in communities across the country,” NMHC President Doug Bibby said in the report. “However, it is important to note that a large number of residents met their obligations despite unparalleled circumstances, and we will see that figure increase over the coming weeks.”

In a virtual call hosted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition on Monday, Bibby noted that “Thanks to NMHC’s aggressive lobbying effort,” the first stimulus package enacted by Congress last month included direct payments to individuals and mortgage forbearance for multifamily property owners. The industry is pushing for emergency rental assistance in the next stimulus, and for the multifamily rental industry to be included in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, Bibby said.

Rent Relief for Subsidized Housing Residents in Atlanta

Residents of subsidized housing in Atlanta can get a break on rent for two months if they have lost income due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a press release from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Housing, the city’s public housing authority. The program is available for people who live in housing owned or subsidized by Atlanta Housing, including residents with Housing Choice Vouchers. Those residents can have their rent covered up to 100 percent by the housing authority in April and May, according to the press release, with no repayment required. The housing authority also “strongly urges private property owners to provide needed flexibility to their residents, such as the waving of fees, splitting of rent payments, up to the suspension or cancellation of partial or full rent payments during this period, if their business allows,” according to the press release.

“As we — as a community — navigate unprecedented circumstances as a result of COVID-19, we have a responsibility to exhaust all reasonable options to support Atlanta families,” Bottoms said in a statement.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: covid-19atlantapublic housingrentsan jose

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