Tenants in Los Angeles demand rent moratorium

By Alex Segura Lozano

Los Angeles, Apr 30 (efe-epa).- More than 200 tenants – and even some landlords – took part Thursday in the latest of series of protests at Los Angeles City Hall to demand a moratorium on rent as millions of workers across the United States have seen their incomes slashed by the economic upheaval accompanying the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are here to ask and demand of our government representatives that they cancel rent and mortgages,” Carlos, who declined to give his surname, told Efe.

Protesters, most of them wearing masks and many remaining in their cars, displayed signs in both English and Spanish conveying the message: “Food Not Rent!”

Taking part in the demonstration were members of Union de Vecinos, a group representing renters in predominantly Latino East Los Angeles, and the larger Los Angeles Tenants Union.

Union de Vecinos mounted a rent strike earlier this month and the LATU is trying to organize a citywide rent strike in May.

The Los Angeles City Council enacted a temporary ban on evictions of residents unable to pay rent because of the coronavirus and another measure giving tenants up to a year to make good on missed payments, while Mayor Eric Garcetti imposed a freeze on rents for hundreds of thousands of apartments.

But Union de Vecinos, LATU and other activists call on Garcetti, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and US President Donald Trump to suspend the rent and mortgage obligations of the most vulnerable people for the duration of the economic crisis.

The accumulating arrears of renters constitute a burden forced on people by the mistakes of authorities, protester Leonardo Vilchis said.

“The failure of the government to take care of sick people has forced us to stay home and lose our resources and our money. Now, they make us pay a debt that is not ours, that has been imposed on us,” he told Efe.

“We are telling the government to forgive the debt so we can choose food ahead of rent,” the Mexican immigrant said.

Union de Vecinos points to data showing that the pandemic shutdown has left fewer than half the residents of Los Angeles County with full-time employment.

Across the US, more than 30 million workers have been laid off in the last six weeks.

Without a moratorium, renters “are vulnerable to the demands to return to work in an unsafe environment, risking their lives and violating shelter-in-place orders,” Union de Vecinos says. EFE


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