The Seattle City Council took the position Monday that all rent and mortgage payments should be canceled during the novel coronavirus pandemic, passing a resolution calling on Gov. Jay Inslee, Congress and President Donald Trump to use emergency powers and other means to make that happen.
Councilmember Tammy Morales sponsored the nonbinding resolution, saying many people have lost jobs and have seen their incomes reduced because of the outbreak. Monday’s vote was unanimous, 9-0.
“It’s the end of the month and we’ve got constituents who are worried about being able to make their rent payments,” Morales said. “We also have landlords who understand their tenants can’t pay rent but still have mortgage payments.”
The resolution is a lobbying maneuver; it doesn’t make any changes in law and doesn’t change conditions on the ground in Seattle. Councilmember Andrew Lewis said the move could help spur state and federal leaders to bail out working households with widespread rental assistance.
It asks Inslee to impose “an immediate moratorium on residential and commercial rent payments, such that no Seattleite should be required to pay rent during this health emergency or accumulate debt for unpaid rent.”
The resolution likewise asks Congress and Trump to impose “an immediate moratorium on residential and commercial mortgage payments and rents, such that no owner of property in the nation should be required to pay mortgage during this health emergency or accumulate additional debt for unpaid mortgage payments.”
When she introduced the resolution last Friday, Morales described it as part of a “nationwide movement” also being advanced in cities such as San Francisco. The council didn’t discuss legal and constitutional issues related to the concept of a moratorium on housing payments.
Seattle already has placed a moratorium on most residential evictions and on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofits, and Inslee also has ordered moratorium on many residential evictions. The King County Sheriff’s Office isn’t enforcing evictions.
But tenants are still obligated to pay, can still incur debts for missed payments and can be evicted later.