Campaigners rally in Othello Park to call for rent cancellation and continued moratorium
by Hannah Krieg
Tenant Rights Advisor Julissa Sanchez read on her phone during the Cancel Rent rally at Othello Park on the afternoon of Saturday, June 5. She said it would be easier to read without her sunglasses, because if she took them off, the crowd of a few dozen would see her makeup smeared. Sanchez had cried.
“The moratorium on evictions is great – it has prevented unfair evictions…” Sanchez said. “… But that certainly hasn’t stopped the thousands of thousands of dollars in rental debt our people are in. “
In response to the economic downturn at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Jay Inslee has declared a moratorium on evictions of tenants unable to pay their rent. The moratorium was originally scheduled to end on April 17, 2020, but as the dual health and economic crisis continued, the moratorium has been extended several times.
At the end of March, the Household Pulse Survey of the US Census Bureau estimated that 211,000 households in Washington were behind in rent. Sanchez, who works with migrant communities in South King County, says the tenants she serves have declared rent debt of up to $ 20,000.
According to the governor’s latest extension, the moratorium ends on June 30. Rent is due next month.
The Washington Poor’s Campaign, the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, the Radical Women and other like-minded organizations have come together to form the Cancel the Rent Coalition. According to Rev. Bianca Davis-Lovelace of the Washington Poor People’s Campaign, the coalition pushed two main demands during its rally this weekend: to extend the moratorium on evictions until 2022 and (as the name suggests) to cancel the accumulated rent.
“A lot of people ask us ‘Well, what about the owners?’” Said Davis-Lovelace. “If our local government can find money for the police, if our government at large can find money for the military, then they can find money for housing and the homeless… What are your priorities, Governor Inslee?
The event began at noon on June 5 and featured many speakers including Nikkita Oliver, candidate for position 9 on Seattle City Council, and Shukri Olow, who is running for a seat on King County Council in District 5. .
“People will say the rent and mortgage cancellation is drastic,” Oliver said. “Now I think so in the sense that Angela Davis said: it’s about getting to the root, it’s about preventing a more serious crisis. “
An activist from the Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (WHEEL) told attendees she anticipates a “tsunami” of evictions when the moratorium is lifted. Every year, WHEEL remembers homeless people who have died in public spaces or by violence. In 2020, the organization honored 139 people who died, up from 112 the previous year. With the impending evictions and limited shelter space, defenders fear the toll will be even higher this year.
In a description of the Cancel the Rent rally, Radical Women said, “The global impact of the coronavirus has dramatically accelerated the already urgent housing crisis in the United States. This disproportionately weighs on blacks, Indigenous peoples and communities of color as well as people with disabilities. , women and children.
Speakers at Othello Park have repeatedly returned to this theme: COVID-19 has caused extreme economic pressure on marginalized communities.
Sanchez says she supports many migrant tenants who work in the service sector with hospitality jobs who did not have the option to work remotely as the world blocked off.
“The closure of the state [protected] us from a pandemic, but that didn’t protect us from an economic crisis, ”Sanchez said. “So what [the state] had the audacity to spend all that help on rental, but it needed a fucking social security number to access it.
Undocumented workers are not eligible for the unemployment benefits that others have relied on since March 2020. In addition, undocumented immigrants without work permits have been excluded from federal stimulus efforts.
As tenants begin to negotiate payment plans for their rental debts, Sanchez says some landlords are asking for a minimum of $ 500 per month on top of regular rent to start paying off arrears.
“Before the pandemic, our people were moved with a rent increase from $ 100 to $ 200,” Sanchez told the crowd. “Now imagine you have your current rent and then on top of that you have to pay off an additional $ 500 in rental debt. “
Of the 11.6 million “Hispanic or Latino” renters surveyed by the US Census Bureau in May, less than a third said they were “highly confident” that they could pay their rent next month. On the same sample, 1.4 million tenants had “no confidence”.
Oliver noted Seattle’s growing wealth, especially as it is home to tech giant Amazon, whose profits The New York Times reports increased 220% during the pandemic. Oliver asked the crowd, “Where’s the bailout for the poor?”
“We are the bailout of the poor,” they said. “… Just as we had a groundswell to support the No New Youth Jail movement, to support the Defund movement, we will have a groundswell to cancel the rent. “
Hannah krieg is a Seattle-based reporter dedicated to covering news that puts people first. Hannah enjoys writing about local and national politics, social issues and anything else that allows her to speak with activists. You can find more of his writing on Crosscut, the International Examiner, and Real Change News.
📸 The selected image: Several dozen people came to the Cancel the Rent rally in Othello Park on Saturday to demand an extension of the state’s moratorium on evictions and to demand the cancellation of rents and unpaid mortgages during the pandemic. (Photo: Hannah Krieg)
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