Survey says suspend rent during pandemic, tenant advocacy group finds
A commanding majority of people who responded to a survey by the Community Alliance of Tenants want their rents and mortgages suspended entirely for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of them expressed a willingness to wage a rent strike to enforce such a suspension.
Jensi Albright, the community engagement director of CAT, shared the results of the poll during a teleconference April 24. She said 80% of those surveyed favored a suspension of rent (and back rent) during the health crisis.
And 75% supported a similar suspension on current and back payments on utility bills.
Support for a rent strike was less robust. Only 18% support a strike, Albright told alliance leaders and supporters during Friday's video conference. Support was even lower among renters who don't speak English, she said, perhaps because their situations are already precarious.
"We are looking at a situation where there's equal or more financial stress because there are lot of folks who aren't able to get all of the federal benefits," she said.
Despite the low polling results, she said, support for a strike or other form of direct action seems to be growing as people become increasingly restive about their ability to pay their rent.
According to the survey, 30% of respondents said they could keep up with their rent only through April.
Renters face a frightening math problem, said attorney Emily Rena-Dozier, of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, during a presentation at the teleconference.
As it stands, the eviction moratorium Gov. Kate Brown imposed by an executive order expires at the end of June. Multnomah County commissioners granted renters in the county an additional six-month repayment grace period after the emergency declaration ends.
Renters in other jurisdictions may also be granted grace periods, Rena-Dozier said.
Tenants in Beaverton, for example, have until September to pay back rent. Hillsboro residents have six months. Both Hillsboro and Beaverton renters must also provide documentation that their incomes were affected by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the money owed to landlords continues to mount. It's not a moratorium on rent; it's a moratorium on evicting people for not paying rent. Once the emergency declaration and grace period end, landlords can demand all the money they're owned — immediately — and begin eviction proceedings if they don't receive it.
This Street Roots story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.
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