National CAPACD Supports Legislation to Cancel Rent & Protect Tenants

Last Friday, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill which calls for the nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the COVID-19 public health crisis (including one month after the official lift of the national emergency). The proposed legislation provides hope in otherwise deeply grim circumstances – 31% of Americans were unable to pay rent at the start of this month, and many more will be unable to do so as millions continue to lose their jobs. The bill moves beyond a call for moratoriums, and instead would constitute full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history. Landlords and mortgage holders would be able to cover their losses from a relief fund instituted by the federal government.

National CAPACD applauds Representative Omar’s bill, and urges Members of Congress to act swiftly to support tenants so that the current crisis does not further economically cripple the most vulnerable members of our country, as past crises have done. National CAPACD Executive Director Seema Agnani states, “Challenged by an Administration that is using our current crisis as a smokescreen to perpetuate a xenophobic agenda while cursorily addressing the real challenges, National CAPACD is encouraged by Representative Omar’s proposed legislation – it puts tenants first, and shifts the burden of accessing relief to the landlord. Current solutions offered under the CARES Act are not strong enough, and programs such as a universal voucher would likely leave many tenants without relief. Her efforts are a shining example of responsible leadership that rises to address a reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear – health, economic security, and housing are inextricably connected.”

National CAPACD is particularly concerned because we know all too well that the COVID-19 pandemic did not create a housing crisis; instead, it is exacerbating an existing housing crisis that disproportionately impacts communities of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). Through data and anecdotal examples, we know that AAPIs are also disportionately impacted by the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.The majority of low-income AAPIs are concentrated in densely populated urban areas and those most impacted by COVID-19 – with over 73 percent of AAPIs in poverty living in high housing cost metropolitan areas.

Members of the #OurNeighborhoods network speak to the growing need to #CancelRent for our communities:

Rebecca Garcia, a youth member at the Southeast Asian Community Alliance in Los Angeles shares, “Rent should be canceled during COVID-19 because people are losing their jobs, including my sister and brother, or getting less hours, including my father. We shouldn’t have to choose whether we eat or have a roof over our heads… I am 14 years of age and I know that it is outrageous to ask us to pay rent. Rent has to be canceled in order for many families to survive during this crisis.”

Cui Guo (房) Fang, a CAAAV Asian Tenants Union member, shared, “I was a homecare worker, and my husband was a worker at a senior center. I stopped working last June because my hip was injured. My husband was laid off two weeks ago… If I pay this month, what will I do next month? We have no idea when the situation will get better. We are both 63. It’s hard to find another job. We must face the current reality; at this time, we have no more money to give. The government must let us live. Our demand is to #CancelRent.”

Across these experiences from the ground, there is a common moral imperative; the government should not put its people in a position where they must choose between their next meal and their next month’s rent. There is an opportunity, in these otherwise troubling times, to come up with transformative solutions for housing challenges that have impact well beyond this moment.