Coronavirus Calls for an Emergency Rent Freeze and Eviction Moratorium
In Jacobin, Peter Gowan makes the case for emergency controls on the housing market due to the coronavirus outbreak.
As the reality of the coronavirus takes hold globally, our capacity — or lack thereof — to deal with the crisis is suddenly a burning question. Housing security is a looming concern, and without a Homes Guarantee, many people are at risk.
Widespread availability of public and social housing, universal rent control, the abolition of homelessness, and a tenants’ bill of rights are necessary measures to protect people from predatory behavior by landlords and unjust evictions. But we do not live in that world yet, and emergency measures in the field of housing will be required to stabilize and protect people during the unfolding public health crisis of our time.
In a crisis where we suddenly need to work less, and so risk reduced paychecks or even layoffs, many renters are fearing eviction and even homelessness if they cannot make a payment. This needs to change.
Socialists and progressives can and should be demanding an immediate emergency program to stabilize people in their homes until the crisis has passed. Against the profits of landlords and developers, we must demand the basic measures to support public health, allowing people to take time off work without fear of eviction.
The measures proposed below should be considered in addition to, not as a replacement for, workers’ protection from layoffs, as well as guaranteed free and universal testing, treatment, and, ultimately, vaccines. We must also demand extensive paid sick leave. But without controls on the housing market, it is likely that pressures and fears will persist.