DENVER (KDVR) — A group in Denver is petitioning Mayor Michael Hancock to enact a 90-day waiver to cancel and forgive all rental, mortgage and utility payments amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mariah Wood, co-chair of Denver Democratic Socialists of America, is organizing the push.
“People are choosing whether to pay rent or to save that little bit of money to buy medication,” said Wood.
Wood orchestrated a virtual press conference Wednesday, featuring laid-off workers and city officials.
“If you can pay rent right now, you might not be able to in a month,” said Elina Rodriguez, one Denver resident in favor of the waiver.
Denver City Council members Candi CdeBaca and Chris Hinds both spoke in the press conference.
“We need a lot of help in fighting for this rental freeze,” said CdeBaca. “This stimulus package, stimulus check doesn’t even cover this area’s median rent.”
“You can look around the country and see that cities are already starting to take action,” said Wood, referring to Aurora, which passed a similar resolution a week prior.
“We kind of already knew where this was headed, even when the coasts were beginning to feel the brunt of it. We knew this was going to impact the service industry workers and hospitality workers,” said Juan Marcano, an Aurora City Council member.
Wood says the idea temporarily postponing rental payments or offering payment plans would not help tenants in the long run.
“Denver is one of the most rent-burdened cities in the country. I know I have never had three months of rent in my bank account at any given time. I don’t earn three months of rent in a month of working. If we don’t act quickly, Denver is going to be facing another crisis after the virus meaning mass evictions,” said Wood.
Although the proposed waiver would cancel mortgage and utility payments, it could negatively impact landlords who rely on rental income to pay staff such as maintenance and cleaning crews.
Hinds says he casually mentioned the idea of a waiver to Hancock, who said he would be in favor. Hinds says he plans to bring it up in a more official capacity to both the mayor and other councilmembers.