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We Need to Cancel Rent During the Coronavirus Pandemic: State Sen. Mike Gianaris

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Op-ed: April 1, 2020 By State Sen. Mike Gianaris

America is facing an unprecedented public health crisis which will soon become an unprecedented economic and housing crisis.

With rents due April 1 and jobless claims expected to pass 3.5 million this week, we could see millions evicted from apartments, homes foreclosed upon, and small businesses permanently shuttered – leaving even more people out of work.

New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis and we are taking serious measures to stem the bleeding. Governor Andrew Cuomo has done a commendable job managing this crisis, including by issuing an executive order halting evictions and foreclosures for 90 days.

But this isn’t enough – many New Yorkers live paycheck to paycheck and do not have three months of back rent saved.

New legislation I introduced last week would suspend and forgive rent payments for residential and small business tenants for 90 days, as well as provide some relief for small property owners. This has received an outpouring of support, nearly crashing the State Senate website over the weekend.

According to Data for Progress’ surveys conducted with The Justice Collaborative, suspend and forgive programs enjoy broad public support: 76% of poll respondents indicated support for some version of suspending and forgiving rents for residential tenants. Few policies receive this level of public support: 83% of Democrats are behind it, and even 72% of Republicans are in support.

Data for Progress

Data for Progress puts critical data behind suspending and forgiving rent, but let me put a human face on it. My office has had its voicemail filled by people telling their own stories. A freelance arts teacher, who does not receive sick leave or traditional unemployment, let me know that with all her classes now cancelled she has no income and cannot pay her bills. Another caller, a hair salon owner, lost all their personal and business income. They fear losing both their apartment and salon – and their livelihood for years to come.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris

There is a moral imperative to #CancelRent. Thousands, if not millions, of New Yorkers are on the financial brink. We often say many New Yorkers are just a paycheck away from poverty. The time has come where the paychecks have stopped coming. We need to take urgent and critical action now to suspend and forgive rents for people who are in need of assistance during the pandemic.

What can we do? I am working to garner support in the legislature to pass my bill – and I am excited to have nearly two dozen Senate cosponsors of the bill and support in the Assembly. The Governor could also, if he so chooses, enact such a policy through executive order. We need people to keep being active voices – call your elected officials and express your support for this policy. Working together, we can deliver the critical relief people need at this difficult time.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris is the Deputy Majority Leader in the New York State Senate. He represents New York’s 12th State Senate district, which includes Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and parts of Woodside, Maspeth, Ridgewood and Woodhaven.

This op-ed first appeared on the site Data for Progress

email the author: [email protected]

14 Comments

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MG needs to stop

As a renter myself, I disagree with this proposal. It seems like a way for Gianaris to get votes and it makes absolutely no sense in the long run. Some people will not be able to pay their rent in full, some not at all, and that is just going to happen as a result of this situation. The government does not need to make things worse for the overall situation by giving everyone the option to not pay their rent and worse yet, hurt those property owners (both big corporates as well as individual owners). It is incredibly shortsighted and benefits a small group of people for a short period of time at the expense of natural economic forces and long term stability. This will hurt the mom and pop landlords and the big companies will no way allow something like this to affect their bottom line and surely will come up with a way so that others ultimately pay for it. So really this proposal will be probably be hurting regular people who happened to own some real estate as a way to plan for or support their retirements (think nice grey-haired grandma and grandpa) just so Gianaris can get votes. The guy is a total politician and only cares about his short term interests. And as I said earlier, I am a renter, and this proposal is bad for the long term health of the system.

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Lic Local

Do you know what would be nice right now? 25000 essential jobs in the neighborhood…oh wait. Nice work Senator Gianaris.

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SmugLandlord

25000 potential hosts for coronavirus. High population density is one reason why the virus spread so quickly in NYC. Maybe you won’t act so smug when you get infected.

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Anonymous

It doesn’t matter what the government does or doesn’t do. Millions of people in New York and elsewhere will simply stop paying their rent. We are likely entering the gravest economic environment since the Great Depression. More people are going to be so desperate because of lack of a job and health insurance than ever before in modern history. Do you think they will just continue to hand over their money to landlords? Judge them all you like, but landlords are deluding themselves if they think this crisis isn’t going to bite them hard.

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Joe

This guy is whacked out. Have the government pay the rent if you’re so concerned about the people. The government are the ones who forced the closures of businesses, leading to employees and owners not having money for the rent. Landlords are providing the most important service of all right now..a home. Which is where you’re supposed to currently be. Water bills, maintenance, garbage, etc. will only increase because of everyone staying home. Landlords cannot simply shut down as other businesses. Their bills are still due. If this passes you’ll only be putting more businesses/landlords out of business and leading to even more havoc.

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Anon

There is no such thing as “canceling rent”, it is stealing. Call it what it is. Grand larceny by legislation.

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Anon

Do you rent a luxury apartment? To answer your question. No I own several two family buildings. I own them outright. My tenants and I signed a lease not adoption papers. If Gianaris wants to cancel rent, then he can pay it for my tenants. I like my tenants, that is why their rent is 30% – 40% below market rate. That will change if they try to use this emergency to steal from me. Taxes, gas, electric and water bills still must be paid. If they can’t make rent right now we’ll figure it out going forward, but nothing in life is free. Your sense of entitlement is sickening. Nobody owes you anything. You want three hots and a cot for free? Try Sing Sing.

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Timetotakeyourmeds

Nobody is stealing from you grandpa. If the bill passes, then you have to comply with the law.
What the hell is Sing Sing? Is the sequel Song Song?

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Anonymous

You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. That’s the lesson every single landlord in NYC will soon discover.

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Fred Johnson

There are many older property owners who have no mortgage and rely on rents to get by. This is clearly an effort to shift all costs of the virus onto property owners. This will end up hurting a lot of property owners who can’t afford it and benefiting a lot of wealthy tenants who don’t need it. If Gianaris really wanted to deal with the issue fairly, rather than pandering to the majority of people who are renters, he’d propose that the State pay everyone’s rent.

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