Progressive Democrats want to cancel rent and mortgage payments for the length of the pandemic

Rep ilhan omar
Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), on July 15, 2019. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
  • Democrats introduced a bill to cancel rent and mortgage payments for the duration of COVID-19.
  • The bill would help the 12 million Americans who owe $US6,000 ($7,740) in average on back rent.
  • Lawmakers say the homeowner aid in Biden’s stimulus plan isn’t enough to help struggling Americans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Although vaccine distribution is ramping up across the country, the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over, and Americans are still facing financial hardships. And while moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures have been instituted and repeatedly extended, progressive House Democrats want the government to do more.

They want to ease the burden on renters and homeowners by cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the pandemic.

Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act on Thursday, which would cancel rent and mortgage payments nationwide through the end of the pandemic. The bill would ensure no negative impact on landlords’ and homeowners’ credit ratings and rental histories, and would establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover the losses of cancelled payments.

-Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) March 11, 2021

Although President Joe Biden extended previous moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, Omar said in a statement that those are not long-term solutions.

“People across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends,” Omar said. “In some cases, local governments are allowing evictions to continue despite the moratorium. In other cases, landlords are going bankrupt due to lack of income. To avoid an even larger crisis, we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this pandemic. This isn’t a radical idea. It’s what is needed to prevent an even bigger crisis.”

12 million Americans currently owe $US6,000 ($7,740) on average in back-rent, Omar said during a press conference on Thursday, and according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in five renters is behind on rent, and since the pandemic began, over 10 million Americans have fallen behind on mortgage payments.

According to a legislative summary, main elements of the bill include:

  • All rent and mortgage holders are eligible for the payment cancellation, regardless of income or payment level;
  • The suspension would last one month after the end of the national emergency declared on March 13, 2020;
  • Fines would be imposed on property owners who violate the conditions of the payment suspension;
  • And the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development will establish three funds:

    • A landlord relief fund for the government to cover the expenses of the suspended payments;
    • A lender relief fund for mortgage holders;
    • And an affordable housing acquisition fund to ensure tenants have access to safe housing conditions regardless of a landlord’s ability to pay for maintenance during and after the pandemic.

The $US1.9 ($2) trillion stimulus plan that President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday included more than $US20 ($26) billion in emergency rental assistance, $US10 ($13) billion for homeowners behind on mortgage payments, and $US5 ($6) billion for homelessness assistance.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington – a cosponsor of the legislation – said in a statement that with the 40 million Americans struggling to maintain their housing and the eight million who have been pushed into poverty, the government needs to step up.

She said: “It is not enough to sit back and just hope that a patchwork of eviction moratoriums keep families in their homes; we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this crisis because housing is a human right – during a pandemic and always.”