Landlords fight 'Cancel the Rent' movement, ask for federal help: Some are 'taking advantage' of the crisis

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The head of a group that represents thousands of New York City landlords reacted on Wednesday to a nationwide push to cancel rent payments amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying the rent strikes will “create an economic domino effect.”

Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, said on “Fox & Friends First” that he thinks federal and local governments should intervene to help address the situation.

With more than 30 million people filing for unemployment, many tenants have said they cannot afford to pay rent.

In May, for the second time since the U.S. locked down its economy to slow the spread of COVID-19, monthly rent was due and as the financial pain inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic deepens, tenants and advocates have called for rent strikes and lobbied for massive government intervention as a housing crisis looms.

Strikes were held in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and California. Organizers of a New York strike said they hope it prods lawmakers into offering more financial assistance during the crisis, including canceling rent for four months and offering tenants the right to renew their lease without rent increases.

Martin said on Wednesday that if renters don’t pay it “will actually hurt tenants as well as landlords.”

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“Unfortunately, a rent strike actually is detrimental to many of our owners’ abilities to ensure that their buildings are safe and secure for the rest of the tenants of the buildings,” Martin explained. “After all, 70 percent of our costs are fixed, that’s property taxes, mortgage payments, water and sewer payments, cleaning costs, which are more important than ever now to make sure that these buildings are safe and sanitary for the rest of the tenants in the building.”

More than 7 million, or 43 percent, of renter households “were already experiencing housing cost burdens” before the pandemic and “are likely to be especially vulnerable,” according to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.

On Wednesday Martin, provided potential solutions to the issue.

“What we’ve been advocating for is for a federal relief package that targets relief directly towards those renters that cannot actually pay their rents,” Martin said. “We hope the federal government will consider specific targeted vouchers to those renters that haven’t been able to get some sort of relief from the advanced unemployment benefits and some of the other benefits that have already passed in additional phases.”

“New York disproportionately has been impacted fiscally and financially by this crisis so we think there should be some considerations paid to the amount of renters that have been impacted,” Martin added.

New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. with more than 321,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 25,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Fox News.

Since March, more than 190,288 people across the country have participated in rent and mortgage strikes, according to data compiled by We Strike Together, which also revealed that 31 percent of renters didn’t pay in April.

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“There are definitely people in need that need help from the federal government, state and local governments to pitch in and make sure that they can continue to pay the rent so that the economic engine doesn’t collapse,” Martin said on Wednesday. “But, there’s [sic] also some folks who are unfortunately taking advantage of this crisis to try to push a socialist business model takeover of private ownership and it is important that we dismiss them to focus on real solutions.”

Fox Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.