“As time goes on, without any response from the Department of Health, I’m getting less hopeful that we’ll see anything,” Nguyen said. “But another reason to pursue it, as aspirational as it was, was to raise the profile of the people who are suffering from the economic impact of COVID, and that did happen. We got some attention from around the country, and we hoped that would cause some action at the state or federal level. Doesn’t mean there was a ton of impact, but that was definitely part of the calculus, to raise the voices of the people who need assistance.”
Also worrisome, Nguyen said, is the possibility that the state simply stalls for so long that the eviction moratorium ends and the city is still waiting on an answer, sending the tenants that the effort is supposed to benefit into the same limbo they were trying to avoid—and the ITU’s tenacity, and the resilience of tenants citywide, may simply not matter. At some point, the moratorium will end, the rent will be due, and it’s still unknown whether the city will have any answers for the tenants who are counting on it to come through on a ground-breaking, progressive act.
“At some point, the moratorium will likely end, and these tenants will owe a balloon payment of rent that, if they haven’t been working, are unlikely to be able to pay,” Nguyen said. “I think most people who are able to pay have been paying. Anyone who is severely financially distressed is not going to have any more ability to pay back rent then they do right now. I’m highly concerned about homelessness and exacerbating inequality for people who are already living on the margins.”