Omar Introduces Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act to Help Struggling Americans Facing Evictions

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents
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Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill would constitute a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history.

Critically, the legislation will establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses from the cancelled payments. It will also create an optional buyout fund to fully finance the purchase of private rental properties by non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments—in order to increase the availability of affordable housing during this downturn.

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Raúl M. Grijalva, Mondaire Jones, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Bennie G. Thompson, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nydia M. Velázquez, Rashida Tlaib, Yvette D. Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Frederica S. Wilson, Jan Schakowsky, James P. McGovern, Jimmy Gomez, André Carson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler, and Cori Bush.

“Right now, we are facing an unprecedented crisis that has put millions of Americans at risk of housing instability and homelessness,” said Rep. Omar. “While the American Rescue Plan extends the national rent moratorium—this is not a longterm solution. People across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends. 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.”

“While few knew how long coronavirus shutdowns would last when they started a year ago, many recognized the impact this would have on those making rental and mortgage payments,” said Rep. Coleman (D-NJ). “While payments were suspended in many places, the debts did not go away and have instead been accruing for nearly a year. These debts are now looming over the heads of residents and the housing market itself. It is imperative that the Federal Government take action to prevent millions of families from being kicked out of their homes or saddled with insurmountable debt. Congresswoman Omar has been a champion on housing issues and I’m proud to join her in co-sponsoring the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act to keep families in their homes and prevent catastrophe.”

"I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing bold legislation to help our constituents stay in their homes during this pandemic – especially if they’ve been laid off, lost hours or lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19,” Rep. Carson (D-IN) said. “Congress has a responsibility to help the most vulnerable and prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless as we fight COVID-19. We must do more to address the eviction crisis too many Americans are facing. This innovative bill will protect tenants and mortgage-holders who are suffering economically by allowing the cancellation of outstanding rents and mortgage payments as a result of the pandemic. It also establishes a HUD-administered Rental Relief Fund and a Lender Relief Fund for landlords and mortgage holders to recover costs of the suspended payments if they meet fair housing guidelines. This is a critical bill and I’ll be working hard to get it passed and signed into law."

“No person should ever face housing insecurity—especially during a global pandemic,” said Rep. Pocan (D-WI). “Congress just passed crucial COVID relief, but millions of Americans still fear losing their homes due to the weight of rent and mortgage payments. This legislation ensures that working families never have to choose between putting food on the table and roof over their head. The American people’s safety must continue to be the federal government’s most important priority.”

“With millions unemployed due to the public health emergency, we’re on the precipice of an eviction crisis,” said Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ). “Canceling rent and mortgage payments would help our most vulnerable and ensure that those who’ve lost so much during the pandemic don’t lose their homes once the eviction moratorium ends. I’m proud to join Rep. Omar’s efforts to keep people in their homes.”

“Housing is a critical determinant of health, economic opportunity and social mobility,” said Rep. Pressley (D-MA). “With the economic impact of this pandemic worsening and the threat of eviction and homelessness looming large for families nationwide, we must take every measure possible to keep families safely housed, forgive all rental debt, and ensure that the credit scores of hard hit families are not forever tarnished. I’m proud to partner with Congresswoman Omar on the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which meets the moment and will help move us towards an America where no person has to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.”

“We're in the worst pandemic in more than 100 years. No one in this country should be getting evicted,” said Rep. Bowman (D-NY). “COVID-19 has shone a light on how challenging it is for working people to stay stably housed in a housing market that prioritizes profits over people. In this combined public health crisis, unemployment crisis, and housing crisis, our job is to think boldly and creatively to meet the needs of struggling renters and homeowners and keep people in their homes. That’s exactly what this Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act does and why I am proud to support it."

“No one should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their heads,” said Rep. Jones (D-NY). “But in the midst of the worst public health and economic crises in a century, we are facing record levels of housing insecurity. It’s past time that we guarantee housing as a human right, which is why I’m proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation.”

“At a devastating moment in which 40 million Americans are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and more than eight million people have been pushed into poverty, the federal government needs to step up and provide relief for renters while also ensuring that small mom and pop landlords who rely on rental income for survival aren’t left behind,” said Rep. Jayapal (D-WA). “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."

"In the midst of a crippling economic crisis - one that has left a disproportionate impact on communities of color - millions of Americans are struggling to pay their rent on time" said Rep. Lee (D-CA). "I’m proud to be partnering with Rep. Omar and our colleagues on the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act because families should not have to worry about making ends meet, and then be left to deal with the longstanding financial burdens after this pandemic is finally over and our economy recovers. Housing justice is racial justice, and we cannot allow families to suffer any longer."

“With no clear end to this crisis in sight, it is impossible for families to prepare for the economic fallout that will come if we are expected to continue to pay rent while we are unable to earn income. Representative Omar’s bill to cancel rent and mortgages for the duration of the housing crisis would mean that the millions of families across the country who have lost their jobs are able to stay in their homes and not go into crushing debt during this crisis. Cancelling rent and mortgages also ensures that undocumented people who were locked out of federal relief have a level of reprieve. Relief cannot wait. We need Congress to pass this bill immediately,” said Dianne Enriquez, Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy.

Americans across the country have been struggling to make ends meet. A few testimonials of experiences with housing insecurity can be found below:

“I work for a sign-making business that creates signs for things like the Nationals’ Stadium. Back in April, 2020, I contracted COVID and needed to take time off of work to get healthy and ensure that I didn’t spread the virus to my co-workers. We fell behind on rent when I had to take time off of work. A few months later, I contracted COVID again and subsequently fell even farther behind on rent as I was taking time off to quarantine. Even though I recovered, I am experiencing lingering health conditions that make working very difficult like extremely painful arthritis in my hands. My doctor says these conditions are likely the after effects of contracting COVID. We have tried to apply for programs like ERAP, but our applications fall through for various reasons. Without cancelling the rent, we will likely be evicted when the temporary eviction protections expire,” said Fabian Meridia.

“I immigrated to the U.S. over 20 years ago from Mexico. My husband and I both worked in restaurants, but our hours have been significantly reduced and sometimes we go weeks without being called in. We did not qualify for unemployment or rental assistance programs like ERAP, so we have fallen 4 months behind on rent. Additionally, I have been experiencing very serious head pains and have ended up in the ER. My medications cost up to $150 every few weeks. We are uninsured, and I am having to decide whether I seek the healthcare I need or continue to fall farther behind on rent. I fear that we will never catch up and will be evicted with the eviction moratorium ends. Cancelling the rent is the only way we can stay housed,” said Elena Nery.

You can find a list of all endorsing organizations here.

You can find a detailed one-pager on the legislation here.

You can read the full legislation here.

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