NYC housing activists call for nationwide #CancelRent strike

Dylan is one of many New Yorkers participating in the city's rent strike.
Dylan is one of many New Yorkers participating in the city's rent strike. © Jessica le Masurier, FRANCE 24

In hard-hit New York, thousands of people have joined a rent strike movement dubbed #CancelRent as the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread. They’re now calling for a nationwide strike on the same theme. FRANCE 24 reports from New York City.

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When the landlord came knocking for the rent at the start of the month, Dylan and his flatmates refused to pay: “We told him that that we weren’t able to pay the rent at the moment because we didn’t have any income. He was not pleased.” Dylan lost his job, and therefore his income, in a nightclub when the coronavirus crisis hit.

The city hasn’t seen anything like it since the Great Depression. Some landlords have said that tenants don’t have to pay their rent. Mario Salerno, who lets out several properties in Brooklyn, is one such landlord: “A lot of them lost their jobs, a lot of them were struggling, a lot of them would have become homeless so I’m telling them to relax.”

But Jay Martin, who runs an organisation representing the Big Apple’s landlords, said that – far from being a form of extortion – rent payments are always needed to pay for the upkeep of the buildings: “In saying ‘cancel rent’, what you’re essentially saying is: we’re removing the ability to keep maintaining these buildings.”

More than a third of the 71,000 recorded US deaths from the coronavirus have been recorded in New York, the worst-hit state in the country.

Click on the video player above to watch FRANCE 24's report.

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