California nonprofit calls for statewide rent strike

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The start of the month under a statewide stay-at-home order means many tenants and homeowners are scrambling to come up with the money for their rent and mortgage bills.

On Wednesday, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment declared a statewide rent strike, demanding that those payments be forgiven until people can return to work. 

With so many workers out of a job right now, a number of families do not know when their next paycheck is coming — but the bills keep piling up.

Spring usually marks the start of a busy wedding season for California florist Terra Thomas. But under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order, many ceremonies have been postponed, and so have her paychecks.

“I already was kind of scraping bottom to get by, as I do every year during down season,” Thomas explained. “So, I had one week of my 60- to 80-hour a week job that I usually would have for the rest of the season and then I lost all of that.”

She has not had any income in weeks and is now struggling to pay for her next meal and other basic necessities. 

“It’s very terrifying for me and a lot of other people having to choose between paying rent or buying food,” she told FOX40.

So Thomas and a group of other Californians have joined ACCE’s strike, withholding their rent and mortgage checks in an effort to mount pressure on the governor to pause the payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Something’s got to happen,” said California tenant Ricky Zepeba.

In March, Gov. Newsom signed an executive order banning the eviction of tenants unable to pay their rent through May 31, also placing a partial moratorium on foreclosures.

Sacramento City Council passed a similar measure locally, temporarily prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants impacted by the virus.

Single mother Monica Perez pointed out renters and homeowners will still have to pay up once the crisis subsides.

“It’s not that I’m going to have the money later because if I don’t start working soon, I’m not going to have the money to pay,” she said. “And it’s not only mortgage, we’re talking about the utility bills too.”

It could leave residents, like Thomas, to sink deeper into debt — or worse.

“If something doesn’t change, then when this crisis is over we’re just going to have such a mass eviction and housing crisis on our hands,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be catastrophic.”

The campaign is giving Newsom 30 days to act and forgive rent and mortgage payments. The group says not doing so could result in a “tsunami of evictions and foreclosures far worse than that seen following the economic crash of 2008.”

Many tenants will be receiving a relief check in the mail in the next three weeks as part of the stimulus package recently passed by Congress. But those FOX40 spoke with on Wednesday said that money will only cover a fraction of their monthly expenses. 

If a tenant is unable to make their rent payment, they must notify their landlord in writing no later than a week after their rent is due.

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