As the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic brings California’s housing crisis to the brink of catastrophe, a new report by The Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress finds that a majority of California voters from both parties would support measures to cancel and forgive rent and mortgage payments throughout the duration of the crisis.
According to polling data contained in a report published on Monday, 74 percent of likely California voters, including 65 percent of Republicans, would support a “suspend and forgive” rent program, under which the state, not a renter, would compensate landlords for lost rental income for as long as there remains a state of emergency in California. Additionally, 75 percent of likely California voters, including 69 percent of Republicans, would support a “suspend and forgive” mortgage program, under which the state, not a homeowner, would compensate a mortgage provider for missed payments for as long as there remains a state of emergency in California.
“Before the coronavirus, California had a homeless and housing crisis. Now as millions will suffer unexpected medical emergencies and loss of income due to coronavirus, the government must take bold actions to ensure people do not lose their homes or fall into insurmountable debt,” said report co-author Rachel D. Godsil, a professor at Rutgers Law School and Director of Research and Co-Director of Perception Institute. “Government actors should seize on the message delivered by Californians of all parties, and protect everyone, including homeowners, renters, and residential landlords.”
The new report comes as renters across California call on Gov. Gavin Newsom to take immediate action to cancel rent and mortgage payments ahead of May 1. If he fails to act, they have announced plans to join together for a “rent strike,” in which they will collectively withhold payment.
In March, Newsom announced temporary relief to renters and homeowners with a 60-day moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. But that only delayed the problem, the report notes, because it sets up a situation in which people will eventually be on the hook for multiple months of back payment. If someone can’t afford to pay a month’s rent now, it’s very unlikely that they’ll able to pay for multiple months at a later date, especially if they’ve been out of work.
One solution is for California to forgive rent payments, while directly compensating residential landlords for those missed rental payments, which will have the benefits of ensuring that residential landlords are able to make their own fixed payments, the report says. The authors recommend that California pay for this plan by enacting a variant on New York’s “mansion tax,” which would place a tax on existing single-family, owner occupied homes over a certain dollar value. The revenue from this tax could be directly to rental and residential landlord assistance and last for the duration of the crisis.
The entire report is available here.
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