30 Million families face eviction, and big investors stand to make a lot of money

Credit: Jim Wilson/New York Times

It’s far from clear whether the government in Washington will extend the eviction moratorium past December 31. State governments are already dropping or watering down their own moratorium orders if they even have them. It’s not enough to protect people from eviction because they’ve missed rent payments after they lost their jobs from COVID. When people finally get jobs, most won’t be able to afford back rent. We need to have rent and late fees be canceled at least for the duration of the COVID emergency; that’s how working people’s income is being canceled. But there is a longer-term problem. If it’s not solved, big investors stand to make a lot of money while even more people will be out in the street.

Across the country, 50 percent of renters live in buildings with only a few apartments, and many of these buildings are owned by landlords with only one or two small buildings. Often these buildings are mortgaged. If renters can’t pay rent, some of these landlords will default on their mortgages, at which point tenants will be evicted and speculators will snap up the buildings for very little money. Not only should rent be canceled for the duration, but the mortgage payments owed by small landlords should be cancelled as well. This is what’s necessary to save people’s homes under this system.

During the financial crisis that started in 2008, there was no protection at all for tenants or homeowners. Big banks and investment managers like Morgan Stanley and BlackRock bought the foreclosed housing for pennies on the dollar, evicted the tenants, and then flipped the buildings to real estate companies who found new tenants or buyers.

The government of President Obama could have prevented this but instead it bailed out the big banks and big corporations. It allowed the banks to use some of the bailout money to finance the purchase of foreclosed housing. The government also set up a program to ensure buyers of foreclosed properties that they wouldn’t lose money.

We don’t want to have to go through this again. If we organize, we can build the power and unity necessary to fight the big banks and the government that helps them take our homes. If ever there was a time we needed a united fight for our future, that time is now!