Opinion: Rent freeze

Lauren Kirksey, Opinions Writer

The Coronavirus pandemic has left many struggling to make ends meet. One of the foremost concerns on people’s minds, especially for those who have been laid off, is how they are going to pay their rent. On April 2 Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order to suspend evictions and foreclosures in Florida for 45 days and the Duval County Courts are currently not hearing eviction cases. However, this is nowhere near the rent freeze that Jacksonville, Florida, and the country as a whole need right now.

Even after DeSantis issued the executive order, Action News Jax found that landlords were still filing evictions. While landlords may not be able to evict right now, renters will eventually get slammed by late fees and eviction notices once the suspension is lifted. A Jacksonville woman who was laid off from her job, Shana Shaw, said that her landlord was going to impose a late fee plus $3 for every day she was late on her rent. Although Shaw was eventually able to work out an agreement with her landlord, others might not be as understanding. Shaw’s landlord also claimed not to know about her financial situation until News4Jax reached out to him, and he may not have been so forgiving had Shaw’s story not been made public. Shaw herself stated, “They did not ask to see if I was okay, to see what was going on, sick or employed. They just want their money.”

The argument could be made that landlords are struggling to pay their mortgages, but according to the Urban Institute, they are often better equipped to handle financial crises while renters earn less income on average and have little to no money for a “rainy day fund.” Even if no rent freeze is put in place, many renters still won’t be able to come up with their rent money and will simply stop paying anyway. This crisis has already led to rent strikes all across the country.

Moreover, Congress has already allowed homeowners to defer payments under the CARES Act, and many are calling for a similar deferment or forgiveness to be extended to renters. Politicians like New York City Mayor Bill Deblasio, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Florida Senator Rick Scott are among those proposing rent freezes and moratoriums nationwide. The DC council recently passed a relief bill to freeze rent all across the District of Columbia.

With increasing layoffs, difficulty filing for unemployment, a job market in turmoil, and an increasing death toll from COVID-19 that has yet to reach its peak in the US, worrying about rent is putting an unnecessary strain on people who should be more concerned with basic necessities and their own wellbeing. A nationwide rent freeze might be necessary in trying times such as these. Corporations have already gotten a huge bailout from the government, but working-class Americans have been left to struggle.

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