It’s March 24, exactly one week before rent will be due for most of the country on April 1. The rent, as we all know, is too damn high in the best of times, which these are most certainly not. How do I know the rent is too high? Well buddy let me tell you, it’s because I already paid it, like a goddamn fool.
Between March 8 and 14, 281,000 people filed for unemployment, a number that is both staggering and by now already wildly out of date, as the sweeping wave of job cuts across the service industry and many other industries continues to wreak havoc on working people across the country. If you still have a job, be fucking grateful. If you’ve just lost your job, I honestly don’t know what to tell you, other than rent is due in a week and it really, really shouldn’t be.
Even in cities that aren’t New York, the massive metropolis that I and roughly 8.6 million other Americans live in even though it is now the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and often smells like piss even when there isn’t an epidemic, about 74 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. That means if a paycheck doesn’t come, we’re fucked. There is a solution to this, however, if the government has the foresight to enact it: a nationwide rent freeze, or better yet rent suspension, that stops landlords from either raising or even collecting rent for the month of April and the foreseeable future.
Personally, I would also love it if they made my new landlord pay me back my April rent, that I already paid because I am a dumbass. I’m moving apartments, you see, or at least I was before the world completely shut down, and I already gave my brand new landlord a check for the first month’s rent and security. The purpose of this blog is to argue for a nationwide rent freeze and also for me to lament the fact that I chose the worst possible time to move in with my partner and it’s sort of stressing me out.
There are several things we’re arguing for here: a nationwide rent freeze, which would make it so landlords cannot raise any rents beyond their current levels for the duration of the crisis. A rent freeze would also ideally be coupled with a moratorium on punitive measures landlords use to compel you to pay rent, like threatening to evict you from your home. Even better than this would be a full rent suspension, which would make it so that landlords do not collect rent for the month of April.
Even better than that, for me personally, would be my landlord very kindly saying, oh, here’s your rent back for April, you need it more than me because you are a freelancer currently blogging for free on a WordPress website set up by your former coworkers after a private equity company decided to ratfuck your actual website.
The last one of those things is probably not going to happen. But in some states and cases, it’s possible that a rent freeze could happen. These solutions don’t work on their own— Jacobin has a good primer on the specific policies and legislation that would have to accompany a freeze to shelter tenants from landlord-backlash after this is all over—but for the time being, they’d go a long way in ensuring that Americans already worried about contracting the most dangerous disease in modern history don’t also have to worry about ending up on the street.
And if my guy Will wants to cut me a break and shoot that deposit check back over, I’d really appreciate it.