U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal is co-sponsoring legislation that would cancel all residential rent and mortgage payments during the coronavirus emergency that has put huge numbers of people out of work, the Seattle Democrat said Friday.

Last month, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution asking Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Congress and the White House to cancel rent and mortgage payments. While the lobbying move didn’t change circumstances on the ground, the city’s congresswoman now is pushing the idea in the other Washington.

Jayapal and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar announced their bill Friday, along with seven Democratic co-sponsors, including  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

The Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act “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,” a Jayapal news release said.

The payment cancellations would apply to primary residences and would be retroactive to cover April 2020 payments, according to a description of the plan shared by the co-sponsors.

The legislation also would establish “a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses from the cancelled payments,” the news release said. To qualify, landlords and lenders would need to agree to “fair renting and lending practices for a period of five years,” according to the plan.


Neither the news release nor the plan’s description estimated how large the relief fund would need to be. Last month, Jayapal and other Democrats introduced a bill, called the Housing is a Human Right Act, that would authorize more than $200 billion in spending on affordable housing over a decade.

“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.

In addition to residential rent and mortgage payments, the Seattle council’s resolution asked that commercial rent and mortgage payments, rental and mortgage insurance payments and property taxes all be canceled.

Inslee acted Thursday to extend Washington’s emergency moratorium on residential evictions through June 4. He added a ban on residential rent increases and certain commercial rent increases.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant hosted an online town hall to build support for a widespread May 1 rent strike, arguing a strike could ramp up the pressure for rent payments to be canceled. Some renter advocates are anxious about the idea, warning about strikers getting evicted later.

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