Monday, April 6, 2020

COVID-19: A Follow-On Crisis is Brewing

While we have all been preoccupied with matters of life and death (rightly so), a follow-on crisis is brewing. As unemployment skyrockets, the ability to pay mortgages and rents craters. We need to direct some of our efforts from quarantining to preparing for the follow-on disaster that quarantining brings in its wake. 40% of the housing units in Richardson are occupied by renters. What is the City doing to prevent the disaster that comes when renters miss their rent payments?

City authority is limited. But city leaders have moral authority. I've seen city leaders promoting take-out orders from local restaurants (good). Can they use their influence with landlords? Landlords and homeowners owe property taxes and utility payments. Renters indirectly pay property taxes and utilities, too. What would happen if the City called a moratorium on those payments? Or reduced future taxes for landlords who deferred rent? Disaster for city budgets, right? Of course. But would the disaster be better or worse than the disaster we're staring at anyway? The relief package passed by the federal government had minimal relief for state and local governments. Maybe cities taking on even more of the burden now would force Congress to rectify that imbalance. I don't know the answers to any of this, but I sure would like to hear our city leaders discussing our options here.

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