Eviction bans to cash: 7 city initiatives to a fight Coronavirus housing crisis

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A man holds up his eviction notice in Los Angeles, June 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
ARCHIVE PHOTO: A man holds up his eviction notice in Los Angeles, June 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

As cities go into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, here are seven ways cities are trying to stop a coronavirus housing crisis

By Amber Milne

LONDON – (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As cities go into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus, officials from the United States to France are scrambling to protect homeowners and renters from homelessness.

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Staying home is the “front line defense” against the virus, the United Nations special rapporteur on housing Leilani Farha said, calling for urgent measures to ensure everyone has a roof over their head.

Here are seven ways cities are trying to stop a coronavirus housing crisis:

EVICTION BANS

With tenants struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus outbreak, more than a dozen U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, have temporarily banned evictions.

Eviction bans are now so common in the United States that the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group, has set up an online tracker.

CASH BENEFITS

Canada has announced C$27 billion ($18.6 billion) in direct support to families and businesses struggling because of coronavirus.

This includes payments of up to C$900 every two weeks to workers who must stay home to self-isolate or care for children but do not qualify for unemployment benefits, as well as a one-off payment for low-income households.

MORTGAGE HOLIDAYS

In London, where house prices are among of the highest in the world, mortgage providers have agreed to a three-month delay in repayments for borrowers affected by coronavirus.

This allows homeowners to take a break from paying all or part of a monthly mortgage repayment but will increase the total amount owed, with bigger repayments in the future.

RENT FREEZES

Many people have called for rent freezes, including activists who interrupted a council meeting in Portland in the western U.S. state of Oregon. The mayor said their proposal was illegal.

In midwestern Ohio, more than 100,000 have signed a petition calling for a freeze on rent, along with mortgage payments and bills.

“Be flexible where you can,” the Residential Landlords Association advised its members in England and Wales. “Work with the tenant to repay any arrears when things return to normal.”

UTILITY SHUT-OFF BANS

Officials in the eastern U.S. state of Connecticut have banned utility disconnections, regardless of arrears.

“People need electricity, heat and water to stay home safely right now,” said Attorney General William Tong in a statement.

SHORTER WORK HOURS

Germany has reintroduced an initiative allowing employees to work shorter hours but keep their jobs to soften the impact of coronavirus on the labour market and allow workers to pay essential bills.

Under the initiative, first used during the 2008 financial crisis, companies can apply for state aid to cover the costs of keeping people on. More than 2 million people are expected to use the scheme.

HOMELESS ISOLATION SHELTERS

France’s housing ministry said on Wednesday it would open two isolation centres in Paris to house and protect more than 3,600 homeless people living in the capital who have tested positive for the virus but are not required to go to the hospital.


Sources: Reuters, Euronews, Residential Landlords Association, Connecticut State, Oregon Live (Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Katy Migiro.

Credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation