Omar reintroduces bill seeking to cancel rent, mortgage payments during pandemic

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)
Greg Nash

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced for the second time a bill that would guarantee full payment forgiveness on rent and home mortgage payments throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the bill, titled the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, there would be no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners, as well as no negative impact on a person’s credit rating or rental history.

The legislation also calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish and oversee a “Landlord Relief Fund,” to cover any losses landlords would receive as a result of the payment cancellations. 

Omar, under the legislation, also hopes to increase the availability of affordable housing by creating an optional buyout to enable the purchase of private rental properties by nonprofits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments. 

Omar said Thursday while introducing the bill along with some of its more than 20 co-sponsors that the country is facing “an unprecedented crisis that has put millions of Americans at risk of housing instability and homelessness.” 

“To avoid an even larger crisis, we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this pandemic,” the Democratic congresswoman added. “This isn’t a radical idea. It’s what is needed to prevent an even bigger crisis.”

The Minnesota congresswoman added that while President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, “extends the national rent moratorium,” it is “not a longterm solution.”

“People across this country will be forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars in back rent when it ends,” she added. “In some cases, local governments are allowing evictions to continue despite the moratorium. In other cases, landlords are going bankrupt due to lack of income.” 

Omar first introduced the legislation in April as the pandemic first hit the country, spurring a financial crisis with widespread job losses and drops in income that put a strain on individuals attempting to meet rent and mortgage payments, as well as other costs of living. 

However, the bill, which was introduced when Republicans still controlled the Senate, never received a vote. 

Omar and the legislation’s co-sponsors, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), argue the bill is as crucial as ever.

“With the economic impact of this pandemic worsening and the threat of eviction and homelessness looming large for families nationwide, we must take every measure possible to keep families safely housed, forgive all rental debt, and ensure that the credit scores of hard hit families are not forever tarnished,” Pressley said in a statement Thursday. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement in support of the bill, “It is not enough to sit back and just hope that a patchwork of eviction moratoriums keep families in their homes; we must cancel rent and mortgage payments during this crisis because housing is a human right — during a pandemic and always.”

Tags Ayanna Pressley Congressional Progressive Caucus coronavirus economy coronavirus pandemic House Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Minnesota Mortgage Pramila Jayapal rent payments

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