UPDATED 10:00 AM PT — Sunday, May 3, 2020
Protests erupted across the United States this weekend as tenants demanded to “cancel rent.” Friday, May 1st, also known as ‘May Day,’ saw mass rent strikes as residents struggle to pay their rent amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Evictions have been postponed, but the debt hasn’t,” said a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. “Every month, we’re accumulating more and more debt, so there is no way we’re going to be able to repay that.”
— francesca quarantini (@franifio) April 30, 2020
California enacted a moratorium on evictions due to nonpayment, but protesters are demanding rent and mortgage payments be completely canceled.
“Even though we have a moratorium on payment of rent right now, six months after this ends, tenants will have to pay all of that rent and people are not going to be able to pay it,” explained one protester. “So, we’re going to look at…the greatest eviction crisis we’ve ever had in this country.”
Los Angeles officials have given tenants up to 12 months to pay their rent after the coronavirus outbreak ends, but residents claimed it will leave them drowning in debt.
— Oly Rent Strike ????️ (@OlyRentStrike) May 2, 2020
“What we really need is to have the rents cancelled. Then we’re not worried about saving every single penny to pay back the rent and instead, we’re able to start spending it back in the market. That’s really the best solution for the economy and to get things back up and running again.” – Elizabeth Blaney, Los Angeles Tenants Union member
According to a tenant advocacy group in New York, nearly 40 percent of the state’s residents have been unable to pay a single month’s rent. Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised New Yorkers will be safe from eviction, but only until June.
“So we want to make sure the rent is canceled, until we know what’s going to happen next,” stated another protester.
No work – no rent? New Yorkers demand reprieve from rent
— Dr Tammi (@maNkomo16) May 2, 2020
Activists have demanded a rent freeze for all residential and commercial renters, as well as immediate relief for everyone who has housing debts due to the crisis. However, those who oppose the strikes claimed they unfairly target landlords, who are suffering as well.
“They’re asking for something for free. Nothing is free, everything comes at a cost. I don’t have a pension, I need the rent. I have an adult disabled son, I have to pay his housing, his medical bills. I need money for him.” – Arnold Epstein, property owner
Landlords have said renters will have to pay eventually.
“By the same token, the property owners, the landlords are going to look to the government and say, ‘Look, we’re deferring all of this rent, but our taxes are due, our mortgages are due. What kind of relief can you give us?’” – Glenn Spiegel, commercial real estate expert
Since March, around 30 million Americans nationwide have filed for unemployment. In April, one third of tenants in the U.S. did not pay their rent on time.