Bill seeks rent and mortgage forgiveness across U.S.

Rep. Omar’s measure would also create landlord relief fund

National /
Apr.April 17, 2020 01:54 PM
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

A Minnesota member of Congress is calling for a suspension of rent and mortgage obligations across the country through the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar on Friday proposed a bill that would cancel rent and mortgage payments starting April 1 until 30 days after the end of the federal state of emergency.

The measure would create a landlord and lender relief fund to make up for the rent and mortgage forgiveness through the period. But landlords who apply for relief must agree to freeze rents for five years, abide by “just cause” eviction rules (a controversial measure pushed by tenant advocates in New York), offer vacant units to public housing tenants receiving rental assistance and follow other fair housing rules.

“Already calls for a rent strike are echoing across the country, as tenants withhold payments indefinitely,” Omar said during a press conference Friday. “The federal government needs to act now to prevent a full collapse of our housing market.”

The measure would offer total rent and mortgage forgiveness, and bar landlords and lenders from reporting non-payment to consumer reporting agencies to protect renters’ and owners’ credit scores.

The bill is co-sponsored by eight fellow Democrats: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Veronica Escobar of Texas and Jesús “Chuy” García of Chicago.

The legislation would presumably face long odds in the Republican-controlled Senate, should it be introduced there.

Tenant organizers in New York and Philadelphia are pushing for a mass rent strike on May 1. In mid-March, New York enacted a 90-day eviction moratorium.

Some landlords are getting forbearance on mortgages insured by Freddie Mac — a program which was extended through the end of the year. Though New York’s top multifamily lender, New York Community Bank, has offered a similar break to its borrowers, the state government hasn’t mandated forbearance from all private lenders.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has called for a freeze on rent and mortgage payments as part of the next federal stimulus package.

Write to Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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