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MacDonald: Fort Collins residents should not go on rent strike

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Since the stay-at-home order, money has been one of the many things on everyone’s mind. Thousands of Colorado residents have been dismissed or laid off, resulting in people demanding freezes on rent and mortgage payments and forming groups like the Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense. This week, two columnists debate whether or not Fort Collins residents should go on a rent strike. 

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As of April, we find ourselves stuck at home to help stop a global pandemic. We’re asked to be on the safe side by not being around others and not going to restaurants, stores or our jobs in order to flatten the curve, as recommended by many health care professionals.

However, life is required to move forward, and that means we still need to pay our bills and our rent. That’s the only thing we can do. 

It obviously doesn’t seem fair for a tenant who has been laid off, permanently or temporarily, because of an uncontrollable global pandemic to financially function the same as if they hadn’t been — that’s a no-brainer. Tenants on the cusp of financial ruin cannot be asked to do that without seriously considering the reality of eviction. Is that fair? Absolutely not, but it doesn’t just affect them. 

The overarching issue of this global pandemic, which surely everyone has begun to figure out, is that the burdens that have arisen aren’t stemming from one “bad guy.” It’s nobody’s fault that we now have the academic, financial or personal issues that have sprung up since this whole thing began.

Yet, we’re still required to move forward. We’re asked to pay our bills or communicate with our landlords in order to figure out a middle ground for those who are struggling to pay rent. 

So, the question is: Do we skip the months we’re told to stay at home? What happens if we do? Sam Himmelstein, a New York lawyer representing residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations, offers the advice to ask your landlord or committee to extend a grace period. But, Himmelstein said, don’t expect to skip rent altogether. 

The key here is communication. Rent isn’t the only payment people are required to make and possibly can’t because of the outbreak, and there is more understanding than one would think in payment forgiveness. 

According to Citibank’s website, customers with important financial crises are asked to contact the bank to go over their needs. The website states that “Customers impacted by the virus are encouraged to contact Citi’s 24/7 dedicated assistance line to discuss how we may be able to assist based on their individual or small business needs.” 

Tenants on the cusp of financial ruin cannot be asked to do that without seriously considering the reality of eviction. Is that fair? Absolutely not, but it doesn’t just affect them.”

New York state has begun drafting legislation that would consider freezing rent and mortgage payments for certain people in New York, and it’s not the only state that’s considering doing it. Colorado Rent Strike and Eviction Defense is a Facebook group that started in late March with activists that began drafting a petition calling for a statewide rent freeze. 

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Desiree Kane, a self-described neighbor in the the CRSED group, explains that the current situation shouldn’t be used to pit renters against landlords who have their own bills to pay as well. The point of the petition is to gain Gov. Jared Polis’ attention about freezing the banks’ required payments. 

As Colorado State University students and residents in the Fort Collins community, we have the right to recognize when there is a dramatic issue at hand. This is more than just pleading for rent forgiveness for a few months when we can all see our economy dipping into a recession.

Choosing to section ourselves when it comes to the argument of monthly payments we cannot make doesn’t seem to serve anybody, especially when we can take an extended hand and work with each other. 

Read the opposing column here

Alexandra MacDonald can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexandramacc.

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