In a letter sent to House and Senate leadership, the lawmakers, led by congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Grace Meng, argued that housing conditions and insecurity have compounded the health risks of COVID-19.
“As people are fighting for their lives and their communities against this pandemic,” they wrote, “we cannot allow housing instability to exacerbate the challenges of meaningful and inclusive relief and recovery.”
The delegation noted that nationally, nearly half of all renters spend more than one-third of their income on rent, while a quarter of renters spend more than half of their monthly earnings. Fifty-seven percent of renters can’t afford an unexpected expense of $400, they said.
“For the working-class, immigrant or impoverished populations found in urban places, this pandemic has proved disastrous,” they wrote. “As such, a national rent moratorium would ensure that these vulnerable communities remain housed.”
The legislators called for the creation of a fund, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to reimburse landlords for the cost of cancelling rent for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as another six months after the crisis is declared over.
The fund would be available to anyone with a current residential lease, small private landlords, public housing authorities, nonprofit organizations and housing cooperatives.
“Not only does HUD have the capacity to administer a program of this scale,” they wrote, “but it would serve as a direct stimulus for the countless families that are facing unprecedented economic hardship.
“We need a universal program that will cover all renters,” the lawmakers added, “without introducing costly bureaucratic measures that will slow the receipt of aid and preserve the already limited stock of affordable housing.”