L.A. city councilman proposes rent and utility debt forgiveness plan for residents impacted by pandemic

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A woman wearing a mask walks past a wall bearing a graffiti asking for rent forgiveness on La Brea Avenue on May 1, 2020, in Los Angeles. (VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman wearing a mask walks past a wall bearing a graffiti asking for rent forgiveness on La Brea Avenue on May 1, 2020, in Los Angeles. (VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

A Los Angeles city councilman on Tuesday introduced a plan to forgive the debts of residents who couldn’t pay rent or utility bills due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Councilman David Ryu’s motion asks the city to explore funding the debt relief plan by borrowing from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, which was established as part of the CARES Act.

“If we don’t deal with this crisis now, it will create an avalanche of homelessness and a generation of people buried in debt –  and Los Angeles will pay the price for decades to come,” Ryu said in a written statement.

In Los Angeles, renters impacted by COVID-19 are protected from evictions and water and power shutoffs thanks to a moratorium signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti back in March.

The order gives eligible tenants 12 months following the expiration of the local emergency period to repay any missed rent. The mayor has also signed an emergency order to halt any new rent increases.

While L.A. landlords can’t remove tenants who have lost income because of the pandemic, they can still file eviction cases and residents would have to prove they qualify for relief in a trial, the Los Angeles Times reports

California’s court system has virtually been processing no eviction cases during the pandemic, but the Judicial Council could lift the suspension on evictions as early as Aug. 14.

“The debt facing renters is not something they could have anticipated, nor is it something they can be blamed for,” Ryu writes in the motion. “Given the disproportionate household costs made up by rent in Los Angeles, the growing debt incurred by renters, and the need to prevent evictions and more Angelenos from entering homelessness, the City has a responsibility to explore all options available to provide rent forgiveness.”

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