I work as a paralegal for a nonprofit organization that provides free legal representation to low-income tenants and vulnerable communities throughout all five boroughs of NYC. My particular office is located in northern Manhattan, where there is a large Latinx population, and where I also live. This neighborhood has been subjected to intense gentrification and the current residents are often battling to remain in their homes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, multitudes of residents in the community that I and my colleagues work with are unable to pay their rent for April, much less May and beyond. New York state has placed a moratorium on evictions until at least June 20 and has closed housing court for now. But tenants who do not make rent payments may well find themselves served with eviction notices as soon as the moratorium is lifted. And when they do, my co-workers and I will be ready to help them battle greedy and heartless landlords.
During the crisis, we have been reaching out to clients to see how they are doing. We provide assistance in dealing with urgent problems like domestic violence or inadequate heat and hot water. We also give information on how to participate in a rent strike as well as resources for food and unemployment benefits, among many other concerns being faced by tenants. For so many, these issues are not separate from each other but are in fact very interconnected.
The statewide coalition Housing Justice for All has put out a call that I strongly support, to extend the moratorium on evictions. They also call for a “suspension of rent and automatic forgiveness of any rent, mortgage, or utility payment owed or accumulated during the length of this crisis,” as well as for housing for the homeless.
Housing is a basic right, and the COVID crisis has only underscored how that is not the case under capitalism. This is why it is so important to me as a radical and member of the Freedom Socialist Party to educate, agitate and organize for an egalitarian socialist society in which everyone will have a home and no longer have to worry about paying the rent.