Statement on the COVID-19 Crisis and Demands to Protect Our Community
Covid-19 is a crisis unlike any in living memory. Everyone agrees that home is the safest place to be right now, but for way too many of us - homeless people, incarcerated people, and detained immigrants - there is no home, and no safety from the virus. This is not only incredibly dangerous for our friends and family in these groups, but for society as a whole. The virus is hammering home the fact that health is truly a public good.
Without major changes to our laws and to the role of government in our lives, many more of us will lose our homes in the coming months, and the health and safety, for ourselves and for our communities, that these homes supply. More and more people are out of work, and have lost access to the income and health benefits that are tied to work. Even when people are able to return to work, they will not be making any more money than they did before, and without drastic government action, returning to work is more of an if than a when. Many businesses will have closed completely and even the ones that can re-open won’t be able to rehire quickly, because no one will have any money to spend on them. As with our health, the virus is highlighting how our economic well-being is tied together, and how it requires shared prosperity to function.
Even before the virus, we did not have the shared prosperity we needed, and our economic and physical health was suffering because of it. 54% of renters in Philly were already rent burdened (paid more than 30% of their income in rent), before this crisis. If people are forced to pay back all the money they owe their landlord or risk eviction, it will completely destroy the low and middle income neighborhoods in the city. And because of the pre-existing racial gaps in wealth and income, this catastrophe will hit black and brown neighborhoods particularly hard. This will also be the case if landlords are allowed to try to recoup their losses by raising the rents after the crisis. The situation is especially unfair to renters because the Federal Government has already acted to protect homeowners, by delaying mortgage payments, through the CARES Act.
Right now, renters in Pennsylvania are protected from evictions and foreclosures until the end of the month, but as soon as that protection ends, people will be thrown on the street. This will in turn cause the virus to spread faster, overwhelm our medical infrastructure, and cause countless unnecessary deaths. The Rent Control Coalition is therefore demanding the following actions be taken immediately
1. Cancel all payments, rent, and debt for as long as the crisis lasts. When the crisis ends, such payments must be frozen at their pre-crisis level for at least a year, and then strictly controlled thereafter, to prevent creditors and landlords from trying to recoup their losses.
2. Free homes for all for as long as the crisis lasts. This means providing all homeless people, incarcerated people, and detained immigrants with unoccupied homes, apartments, hotel rooms, etc. After the crisis, immediately construct community controlled, high quality, permanently affordable social housing.
3. Provide other necessities, such as food, water, health care, clothes, utilities, internet, etc. free at the point of use through universal tax funded programs, for as long as the crisis lasts.
4. Establish a public, city-run hospital to ensure that Philadelphians have adequate access to emergency care the next time something like this happens.
The Philadelphia Rent Control Coalition
About the Philadelphia Rent Control Coalition
The Philadelphia Rent Control Coalition is Philly Tenants Union, Lilac, Philly Socialists, Reclaim Philadelphia, Tenant Union Representative Network, Penn Law National Lawyers' Guild, Community Legal Services, OnePA, Socialist Alternative Philadelphia, and Neighborhood Networks. We are a group of tenant advocates organizing to achieve rent control in the City of Philadelphia.
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