The New Yorker - It is now clear that the twin prescriptions of social isolation and shuttering large parts of the national economy have lowered the death toll of the novel coronavirus in the United States from the direst predictions. But in a country where the “social safety net” is more a distant memory than a source of actual provision or support, large swaths of the public now face the threat of hunger and homelessness. Each passing week brings more questions about what our cities and states will look like when the shelter-in-place orders are lifted; they also bring us one week closer to the rent coming due.
By May 6th, twenty per cent of tenants had not paid this month’s rent, a slight improvement over the twenty-two per cent who did not pay last month’s rent in the first week. This is probably the result of renters receiving increased unemployment and stimulus checks, but it is also unsustainable. Republicans have vowed not to renew the extra unemployment money when it comes up for a vote again in July, and most states are running out of funding to make their shares of the payments. Meanwhile, in a matter of weeks, a staggering thirty-three million people have filed for unemployment, and the future of millions more hangs in the balance. April’s unemployment rate was nearly fifteen per cent, a height of joblessness not reached since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that by the fall, the official unemployment rate could rise even higher, to sixteen per cent.
VOGUE - In Oakland, the Bay Area’s deep-rooted housing crisis is starkly visible. In makeshift encampments, the city's homeless live in tents, old cars, and mobile homes clustered together in parking lots. Vacant houses, all chipped paint and rotting wood, stand feet away from newly renovated properties that tech industry transplants would swoop up in a heartbeat.
At the end of last year, Moms 4 Housing, a group of Oakland-born unhoused and marginally housed community activists, began a campaign to face these issues head-on. They planned an occupation of one home that had been sitting vacant for years, setting their sights on fighting gentrification, institutional poverty, and a speculative housing market that’s completely transformed the city that they grew up in. It garnered attention worldwide, and now, in the wake of COVID-19, their actions have taken on a whole new context. How can California’s homeless population heed the call to shelter in place when there’s no such shelter to speak of?
LA Times - With the state's economy in pandemic-induced freefall, missed rent payments are piling up for California tenants and landlords. On this episode of Gimme Shelter, Matt and Liam discuss whether a rent strike will provoke the state into action, and what can the government realistically do to help? First, the Avocado of the Fortnite takes us to Liam's backyard (4:00). Then a discussion of the #CancelTheRent movement and two state proposals to address the issue (7:00). Then an interview with Patricia Mendoza, a renter in Imperial Beach who participated in the May 1 rent strike (30:00). Finally, an interview with Evelyn Garcia, whose family owns an apartment complex in South L.A. (44:00).
LA Times - Chris Tyler lost his job at a restaurant on March 15 — the same day Mayor Eric Garcetti banned sit-down food service to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles. A couple of weeks later, he and his partner decided not to pay rent for the one-bedroom apartment they share in Silver Lake.
“It’s a decision that I have made personally that is both political and very much out of necessity,” said Tyler, 31. “I don’t think it’s an unreasonable choice to make in the middle of a global pandemic.”
As California enters its second full month under stay-at-home orders designed to prevent more coronavirus cases, a growing number of tenants are turning their personal economic situations into mass protests, demanding that legislators at all levels of government pass laws to cancel rent until the public health crisis is over.
They call it a “rent strike” and it is just one tactic marking a dramatic new escalation in the long-running fight over affordable housing in California.
CalMatters - By Patricia Mendoza, Special to CalMatters
It was a few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic when I got the call from my boss. I could tell from the sound of her voice what I was about to hear: She had no choice but to let me go.
Just like that, I’d lost my job — a job I loved, that I did well, and that I needed to feed my two kids and pay my rent.
My boss apologized and promised I could return “when things got back to normal.” But when will things get back to normal? And what will happen to my family in the meantime?
My heart sank as I wondered how we were going to stay in our home. The answer is that we won’t be able to, unless our elected leaders cancel and forgive my rent until this coronavirus crisis is over.
Newsweek - The debate on whether people should still be made to pay rent after they have been forced from their jobs will be highlighted again as tens of thousands of tenants across the U.S. are expected to take part in a mass strike in order to help ease the financial burden brought on as a result of the coronavirus.
A coordinated day of action had been planned by groups across the country urging people who have lost their jobs as a result of the virus and lockdown procedures to withhold paying their rent on Friday, May 1.
Marketwatch - For the last two months, Mark Osgood from Chicago said he has not been able to pay rent. He’s 32, an Uber driver, and says work has dried up due to the virus. He said neither his stimulus nor his unemployment checks have come in yet.
“I mean, I live paycheck to paycheck as it is,” he said. “And if there is no income coming in, there’s no bill money going out.”
Today is May 1, rent is due, and he said he won’t be paying. Neither will many others — there are rent strikes across the country today, as a response to job losses and economic damage from the pandemic. Worker rights activists across the country are also calling for a day of action to bring attention to workplace issues around COVID-19.
kpbs - A caravan of protesters wound through San Diego on Friday, part of a statewide rent strike.
More than a month into the coronavirus lockdown and resulting local economic collapse, many tenants are stuck between having to choose between paying rent or paying for other necessities.
Some tenant advocates say the government hasn’t done enough to support renters.
"The government is more concerned on this economic crisis than the people that make this economy work, which are workers. We’re exchanging this pandemic for a mass eviction crisis," said Grace Martinez, an organizer with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Her group helped organize the caravan and strike Friday.