“It’s Terrifying,” says Brandy Granados. It’s a feeling other individuals who have been recently laid off are expressing. Granados has a lot of fears and concerns, but the biggest off them has to be around keeping a roof over her head.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Granados was recently laid off from her job with UPS. Because her job was temporary, she can’t file for unemployment. She’s already taken out a title loan on her car, and now runs the risk of losing both her transportation and her home.
Granados, was just one of several speakers who shared their fears during a press conference sponsored by KC Tenants, a tenants rights organization based in Kansas City Mo. During the conference, the group called on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to help all Missourians have, or maintain safe, accessible, and affordable homes, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week, in response to a tenant who was about to be evicted, KC Tenants moved quickly and drove over 500 calls into the office of 16th Judicial Court Presiding Judge David Byrn. The result, on Thurs., March 19, Judge Byrn stayed the execution of eviction judgments that had been previously issued by the court, through April 18.
A week before, Judge Byrn issued an order suspending the court’s high volume dockets through March 27. Since eviction dockets are some of the heaviest, they were included in the order.
Eviction is a major issue in Kansas City. Over the past 18 years, on average, 42 evictions per day have been filed in Jackson County.
While both of these are great wins, the orders only apply to residents of Jackson County. In addition, both orders are only short term. That’s why KC Tenants is calling for Gov. Mike Parson to implement on a statewide basis, a broad package of policy changes they believe are essential to ensure housing security for laid-off individuals. The plan also includes steps to help keep the homeless healthy in the midst of the pandemic.
In addition to a moratorium on evictions, they’re also calling for a moratorium on foreclosures, a rent and mortgage holiday, a rent and mortgage freeze, and the launching of a rental assistance fund. They are also calling for an end to utility shut-offs as well as restoring utilities to households that have already been cut off.
Recently, Gov. Parson issued and order, banning utility shut-offs, but it did not include the group’s request to reinstate service. He has not called for a moratorium on evictions or foreclosures.
The group felt passionately that Parson was “behind the curve” in taking needed humane action, especially when compared to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly who has already ordered a freeze on evictions and foreclosures until May 1 and a ban on cutting office utilities through April 15.
Here’s a summary of the group’s demands
Rent and mortgage holiday Individuals would not be required to pay rent, for both public and private housing, and mortgages would not have to be paid for “the duration of the crisis” and a recovery period. They would not be required to pay late fees, and at the end of the moratorium, the rent nor the mortgage payments would come due.
To make the landlords and lenders whole at the end of the holiday, they discussed potentially a tax credit or another program that might reimburse the landlords.
Rent and mortgage freeze The freeze would outlaw rent increases and lock in mortgage payments at current levels. This would also include a free on late fees. They expressed concern that some landlords and lenders might price gouge
Rental and mortgage assistance Here, they’re calling on the governor to launch a statewide emergency relief fund to provide rental and mortgage assistance to people who are at risk of losing their homes because of sickness, and inability to work or other factors related to COVID-19. They call on this plan to be accessible to all without any means-testing, barriers to entry, lengthy paperwork or application fees.
Eviction and foreclosure moratorium This would include a moratorium on all eviction proceedings, including filings, hearings, writs, and enforcement. KC Tenants, says that since some landlords evict people outside the court system, they’re calling for severe penalties for banks, corporations, and individuals who violate the moratorium.
Utility shut off bans and universal service This ban would be on water, gas, electricity, and internet. Although Gov. Parson reportedly issued a ban on utility cutoffs on Wed., March 18, we couldn’t find any supporting documentation on the order on his website.
KC Tenants is also calling for utilities to restore utility services to households, even if they faced shut-off before the ban, including internet. “Internet, which helps provides needed information, is going to be critical to people’s survival during this emergency,” says Tara Raghuveer, KC Tenants director.
The package also includes a series of proposals to ensure the safety of individuals experiencing homelessness.
“The guidance to stay at home doesn’t work for people that don’t have a hone to stay in,’ says Jenay Manley, a leader with KC Tenants.
People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 writes Raghuveer. KC Tenants calls for a home for the thousands of homeless Missourians Their call is for “unprecedented” action to “convert vacant hotel/motel rooms, dorms, schools, hospitals, and large stadiums into homes for people who need them, including people experiencing homelessness and people living in unsafe/unsanitary conditions now.”
Since many homeless people use public places, that are not closed, for sanitary purposes such as using the restroom and washing their hands – activities that are important to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 — KC Tenants is calling on the governor to build emergency sanitation sites near homeless encampments and major public transit hubs.
They are also calling for an infusion of resources to local providers for expanded homeless services and an end to sweeps, closures and vehicles town that criminalize homelessness and pose a serious health risk.
If you want to let Gov. Parson know your support or oppose these issues, you can reach out to him at (573) 751-3222 or email him at https://governor.mo.gov/contact-us.
Unrelated to their request for action from Gov parson, KC Tenants has started a Mutual Aide fund, to help some of their members who are most vulnerable during the pandemic.
“KC tenants is made up of working-class tenant leaders— many of whom are single moms, service workers, the elderly and folks on fixed incomes,’ says Wilson Vance, a KC Tenants organizer. “This is part of what makes us strong, Right now, however, for those same reasons we are more vulnerable during the COVID-19 outbreak.”
They’ve created a Go Fund Me Page to collect donations to help some of their members. So far, they’ve raised nearly $3,000. If you would like to contribute, you can here bit.ly/KCTMutualAid.
To read a complete list of KC Tenants demands bit.ly/MOCOVIDDem.