During these past five months, I have been spending most of my time in my apartment. I’ve been living on my own for about three and a half years and my apartment is a dream. I’ve shared before, that I won a housing lottery which allows me to live in a place that I would not be able to afford otherwise. It’s taken a long time, but my home is my sanctuary. I feel complete and utter peace when I am here. Living in a city like New York, you need a haven that you can call home. I also understand that I am fortunate enough to have a home. One out of every 125 New Yorkers is homeless. That’s 70,000 people. There are more homeless New Yorkers today than ever before. And it’s not just here in NYC, homelessness is an issue in most major American cities due to the rising cost of rent and living expenses.
As the country has been ravaged by the Coronavirus, millions of Americans have been unable to pay their rent. Those hardest hit by layoffs and the economy closing are people who are renters. For the greatest country in the world, most of its citizens live paycheck to paycheck and studies show that most Americans could not survive a $400 emergency. The government bailed out major corporations with millions of dollars in loans and federal aid. They provided $1200 for citizens making less than a certain amount, and an enhanced unemployed benefit that was keeping millions of Americans from destitution. As our lawmakers are arguing amongst themselves in Washington, the federal rent moratorium that protected 12 million Americans from evictions expired on July 24th.
110 million Americans live in rental households, and an estimated 20% of those households are at risk of being evicted by September 30th. It’s no surprise that renters of color will be hit the hardest. It disgusts me the blatant ways in which we put profit before people. Yes, landlords also have their own bills to pay, but the people living inside your units are humans. If you know the reason why they cannot pay their rent, then surely you can work out a way to provide relief during this time. When the quarantine first hit, female renters were sharing stories of how their landlords were proposing sex in exchange for rent. There will always be those who exploit a terrible situation, and I think this pandemic has shown me the worst sides of ourselves.
Our lawmakers need to be held accountable every single time they let protections expire for the American people. Most of them have no idea what their constituents are going through and are only looking out for their best interests. If you or someone you know is having difficulty paying their rent there are resources available and steps you can take:
- If you know you are unable to pay your rent, let your landlord know as soon as possible. It seems counterintuitive, but landlords are more lenient if they have a heads up, and might be more willing to work with you. They will make more money getting some rent than finding a new renter.
- Your landlord must give you a 30-day notice before they file in court. There are websites available with more information that can help you know your rights as a renter. Princeton’s Eviction Lab has a scorecard with all the dates by the state when rent protections will expire.
- If you have already fallen behind, don’t be ashamed of asking for help. Adequate housing is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everyone. There are legal aid groups that can provide legal assistance if you should need it.