Small-Scale Landlords Can’t Just #CancelRent
Mom-and-pop landlords have been hit hard by the pandemic. But activists say there’s room for them in the #CancelRent movement.
Jurdon Gold had been a renter almost his entire life. Born in Oakland, Gold, like many in the Bay Area, had never lived in a house he or his family owned. That changed in 2015 when he and his wife began looking for a new place to live after their wedding. Originally planning to rent, the couple couldn’t find a place they could afford in the East Bay. As they began looking further afield and made peace with the idea of commuting, they spotted a townhouse for sale in Vallejo, about 25 miles north of where Gold grew up. The mortgage that far from pricey San Francisco was something they could afford, too. Without ever planning it, the two became homeowners. “We kind of fell into it,” Gold said.
The couple’s time in their first home would prove short-lived. Gold’s wife got a postdoc position at Stanford University, diagonally across the San Francisco Bay. To avoid a three-hour commute that involved crossing multiple bridges, the two moved 50 miles south and began renting in Hayward. They quickly found a tenant for their Vallejo home. It was 2019, and Gold was now both a landlord and a renter. Thanks to the insanity of the Bay Area housing market, the rent in his new Hayward home was more than the mortgage payment in the Vallejo townhouse. “Our mortgage in Vallejo is $1,440. Our rent out here in Hayward is $2,950. So it’s literally double,” Gold said.
Then came Covid-19, which, less than a year after Gold became landlord, kicked off the most dramatic face-off between landlords and tenants in a generation. Across the country, millions of laid-off or furloughed Americans have been unable to pay rent since March. Without any federal guidance, elected officials in cities and states have clumsily tried to stave off a mass wave of evictions. Some, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, have issued “moratoriums” on police and local officials enforcing evictions, while others states like Arkansas offered moratoriums on utility shutoffs, but otherwise left renters to fend for themselves. But even in places with pauses on evictions, the threat to renters remained. What would stop millions of laid-off workers…