Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces Bill to Cancel Rent, Mortgage Payments

Melanie Arter | April 20, 2020 | 8:40pm EDT
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(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a bill last week calling for the cancellation of rent and mortgage payments through the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The bill would constitute a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history,” according to a press release.

The legislation will establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses from the cancelled payments and create an optional fund to fully finance the purchase of private rental properties by non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments—in order to increase the availability of affordable housing during this downturn,” the press release added.

The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act also calls for any rent already paid to be reimbursed to the tenant.

The measure also calls for the renters not to be penalized by credit agencies for not paying rent.

“The nonpayment of rent by a tenant or tenant household shall not be reported to a consumer reporting agency nor shall such nonpayment adversely affect a tenant or member of a tenant household’s credit score,” the bill stated.

The bill is co-sponsored by the so-called “squad” - Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). Also listed as co-sponsors are Reps. Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.).

Omar said that COVID-19 crisis “is more than just a public health crisis -- it’s an economic crisis.”

“The coronavirus crisis is more than just a public health crisis—it’s an economic crisis. Minnesotans are losing jobs, getting their hours reduced, and struggling just to put food on the table. We must take major action to protect the health and economic security of the most vulnerable, including the millions of Americans currently at risk of housing instability and homelessness,” she said.

The congresswoman said that Congress has the “responsibility to step in to stabilize both local communities and the housing market during this time of uncertainty and crisis.”

“In 2008, we bailed out Wall Street. This time, it’s time to bail out the American people who are suffering,” Omar said in a statement.

Pressley said housing “a human right.”

“Housing is a critical determinant of public health, and that has never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pressley said in a statement. “We must take bold, urgent action that meets the scale and scope of this crisis, and keeps families whole. 

“By cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of this public health emergency, the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act affirms that housing is a human right and ensures that no person or family is forced to choose between putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head during this unprecedented crisis,” she said.

“The federal government must step up to provide relief for vulnerable renters while also ensuring that small mom and pop landlords who rely on rental income for survival aren’t left behind,” Jayapal said in a statement. 

“I have pushed for a nationwide moratorium on rent-based evictions and foreclosures, called on financial institutions to do their part, and proposed the Housing is a Human right Act to invest more than $300 billion in housing infrastructure. This legislation furthers these goals and establishes significant emergency relief for landlords and mortgage holders. In this time of crisis, we need to act boldly to provide crucial lifelines to meet this most basic of needs,” she said.

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