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We need to expand rental assistance to the most vulnerable, not expedite evictions

The end of the moratoriums threatens to bring a devastating onslaught of evictions, leaving landlords with added expenses and empty units while forcing many tenants into homeless shelters or doubling up with other low-income households.

Landlord Corey Oliver outside one of his buildings in the Lawndale neighborhood. He said the eviction moratorium leaves “no recourse for a housing provider.” 
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

In reporting on the plight of landlords due to the moratorium on evictions, David Roeder seems not to have talked to any tenants’ organizations. He also did not note that the statewide moratorium set to expire at the end of this month supplements a national moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through June 30.

Roeder says the moratorium means landlords “shoulder a strange burden of giving away their product for free.” But there’s a big difference between canceling a debt and placing a freeze on the most drastic recourse for creditors. Tenants covered by the moratorium are still legally liable for all unpaid rent — and still liable to be evicted for other reasons than nonpayment. In order to qualify, renters must agree to make timely partial payments during the moratorium and pay the remainder of what they owe when it ends.

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Roeder writes that “most landlords are decent, small-business owners.” But according to the Census Bureau, just 41 percent of rental units nationwide are owned by individual, “mom-and-pop” landlords, and their share of the rental market in Chicago is undoubtedly much smaller. Most of Chicago’s 1.2 million renter households live in buildings with five or more units, which are far more likely to be owned or managed by big real estate companies like Pangea Properties, Related Properties and East Lake Management.

Those tenants eligible for protection under the moratorium, on the other hand, must document they’re unable to pay in full and on time due to a sudden loss of income or extraordinary medical expenses during the pandemic and that they would likely become homeless if evicted.

The end of the moratoriums threatens to bring a devastating onslaught of evictions, leaving landlords with added expenses and empty units while forcing many tenants into homeless shelters or doubling up with other low-income households, burdened with long-term debts and marks on their records that can hamper their ability to find housing for years. As desperately needed federal relief funds are finally being distributed to renters in arrears — or rather, to their landlords — we need to speed and expand assistance to the most precarious elderly, disabled, immigrant and low-income tenants, not to expedite evictions.

Jeff Sklansky, Rogers Park

Chicago cancel culture

Let’s suppose Chicago does decide to rename the Outer Drive for Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. How long do you suppose it will take the self-appointed guardians of all that is woke and virtuous to decide that Mr. DuSable, as the first permanent, non-indigenous settler in our area, was an exploiter of native people and consequently demand that DuSable Drive be renamed?

Mark M. Quinn, Naperville

Presidential message of hope

President Joe Biden’s address to the legislators and the nation Wednesday night aroused hopes I’ve not felt for the nation since the inauguration of President Barack Obama. We have a real president — a leader of vision and hope. He touched unflinchingly every major problem facing the country and in bursts of optimistic proposals asked Congress and us to carry them out

As a Catholic sharing faith with President Biden, I believe Jesus’ task for us is to build God’s spiritual reign on earth before the second coming. Our Christian duty is to do this by materially realizing Jesus’ injunctions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the dying, protect the widows and the orphans, fight poverty and fight for justice — racial and economic.

In other words, have love for one another, the ethics of human solidarity. Brotherly and sisterly love is the basis of genuine patriotism and makes our constitutional preamble — promote the common welfare — a reality. President Biden invites all of us, reaches his hand across the aisle and across borders. We need unity and teamwork to accomplish this vision. It’s beyond political divides. Uncle Sam needs and wants you and me.

Marion J. Reis, Lombard