Supervisors back rent and mortgage payment moratorium

The moratorium would forgive all payments to prevent debt accumulation

San Francisco supervisors joined the call Tuesday to waive all rent and mortgage payments while workers and businesses lose income during the coronavirus shutdown.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Matt Haney introduced a resolution on Tuesday backing a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments to provide relief to those economically impacted by a shelter-in-place order. More than 140 community groups, including Eviction Defense Collaborative and California YIMBY, signed a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom last week with similar demands.

“There are thousands of workers that are sitting in their homes that have been laid off that have no idea how they’re going to have enough money for food and medications and no idea how to pay their rent,” Ronen said. “Without [both moratoriums], we cannot prevent mass displacement, mass evictions, and mass chaos when we get ahold of COVID-19 and stop the spread.”

Enacting such a measure is not in local control, but up to Newsom and the federal government. The resolution, co-sponsored by Supervisor Dean Preston, is intended to build support for the moratorium.

Evictions stemming from the loss of income from the crisis are currently suspended in California, while Preston and Mayor London Breed expanded those protections Tuesday to include no-fault evictions, like owner move-ins. But that doesn’t solve the issue of paying back rent with no income once the shelter-in-place is lifted, proponents of the moratorium said.

“If there isn’t a rent and mortgage moratorium, we’re going to see debt, foreclosures, and homelessness at levels we’ve never seen before,” Haney said. “Yes, this would be an unprecedented step but we are in completely unprecedented times. This the step we can take right now to give people the certainty, the confidence and do the right thing for public health.”

As for who would face the financial shortfall in the end, Ronen cites the Federal Reserve’s $1.5 trillion loaned to banks to stabilize markets earlier this month.

“The $1.5 trillion of public money that the Federal Reserve gave to the banks during this time and uncertainty is the money that should pay for this chain reaction,” Ronen said. “If we expect them to [shelter in place], then we have to provide the solution with this huge amount of debt that they accumulate. It is possible, it is essential.”

The push also has support across the partisan aisle from Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who called for a 60-day moratorium last week on rent, mortgages, utility and fee payments for people making under $75,000 a year and for small businesses.

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