Renters Together MHK is pushing for a “rent holiday” as Manhattan and Kansas battle the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is going to be a disaster if we don’t figure this out,” said Brandon Irwin, Renters Together MHK organizer.
Renters Together MHK, which is a local housing advocacy group, is urging congressional leaders, including Sen. Pat Roberts, Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Roger Marshall, to put forth a rent and mortgage freeze for both renters and landlords to assist people who are struggling to pay rent during this time.
“It’s the only viable option right now,” Irwin said.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order last week to stop evictions of people affected by COVID-19.
However, evictions could occur if it’s not related to the virus.
Irwin said local leaders need to do more.
“They’re not being held accountable for this,” Irwin said.
Deputy city manager Jason Hilgers said that the city has no authority to halt or delay rent payments or mortgages. He said that is the state of Kansas’ authority.
“We don’t have the legal authority to interfere or intermingle with their laws,” he said.
Irwin said he appreciates the advocacy by Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi, but said other officials are not understanding the gravity of the situation. The group wants local leaders to join them on this issue.
‘We’ve had absolutely zero meaningful contact with our local elected officials on this,” Irwin said.
Renters Together MHK last week organized a coalition of renters, housing professionals and housing advocates to push for the rent holiday.
“It is pretty unacceptable for landlords to be demanding rent on April 1,” Irwin said.
If leaders do not take action, Irwin and Angela Dorsey-Irvine, fellow Renters Together leader, are concerned the local homeless shelter, Manhattan Emergency Shelter, Inc., will not be able to house an influx of people if landlords decide to evict people.
“There’s no room in the emergency shelter,” Irwin said.
Social distancing rules also put a cap on how many people can be at the shelter.
“No one is adapting to the situation,” Dorsey-Irvine said. “Business is normal, and it’s not.”
Irwin said Renters Together MHK can help renters who have questions or are needing help talking to their landlord. He said Renters Together MHK also can help renters understand their rights.
“(Renters) are so worried that they rock the boat, that they’re going to be evicted,” Irwin said. “And right now, they feel that more than ever.”