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Landlords, Banks Have ‘Moral Imperative’ To Keep People In Homes, Mayor Says While Announcing Housing Solidarity Pledge

"It's about everyone doing their part. We are asking landlords to work out flexible payment plans with tenants, and to do so, they need flexibility from their lenders."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a press conference announcing a statewide stay-in-place order Friday, March 20.
Colin Boyle/ Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Some landlords and banks are working with renters and mortgage holders who found themselves suddenly out of a job due to the coronavirus pandemic — but many are not.

In an effort to encourage lenders and landlords to use “compassion” with struggling tenants, the city announced its Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge on Wednesday. The pledge puts pressure on big banks and property owners to do what they can to keep people in their homes.

Landlords who take the pledge must do one or more of the following for eligible renters struggling due to coronavirus:

  • Offer a grace period for rent payments
  • Create a written repayment plan
  • Not charge late fees for missed payments

In turn, lenders like banks that take the pledge must offer at least one of the following to eligible mortgage holders:

  • Offer a grace period for mortgage payments
  • Stop filing foreclosures until May 31
  • Provide neutral reporting to credit agencies
  • Not charge late fees for missed payments

“The Chicago Housing Solidarity Pledge is about compassion and flexibility,” said Marisa Novara, commissioner of the Department of Housing. “It’s about everyone doing their part. We are asking landlords to work out flexible payment plans with tenants, and to do so, they need flexibility from their lenders.”

Novara was joined by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and various mortgage lenders, landlords and tenant groups to announce the pledge.

Novara said landlords have reported a 61 percent decrease in rent collection in April, and data shows renters are being hit up to 10 times harder than homeowners amid the crisis, in part because half of the jobs at highest risk of being lost due to the pandemic are low-paying jobs.

The same Chicagoans who might not have been able to save for an emergency are those now being hit hardest, Novara said.

The city has tried to help with housing while getting “little help” from the federal government so far, so the solidarity pledge puts public pressure on big financial institutions to step up and help out mortgage owners and landlords who can, in turn, help renters. The pledge calls that help a “moral imperative.”

“To do nothing would not only be senseless and cruel, but really hurt our city now and in the future,” Lightfoot said. “The [pledge] brings all of us together to address this unprecedented challenge and to provide clear guidance on this issue.”

The mayor and Novara said everyone who is part of the housing ecosystem — including renters, landlords, homeowners and mortgage lenders — needs to collaborate during this time to prevent foreclosures and a housing crisis.

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