Some Durham residents are holding a rent strike to protest landlords who are still collecting rent in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
A collective called Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Durm is urging people to refuse to make rent or mortgage payments to stand in solidarity with those that are unable to make rent this month after being furloughed or laid off as businesses shut down. Similar rent strikes are taking place in Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
“Some of us have no choice other than to not make rent or mortgage payments,” the group said in a statement Tuesday. “Some of us won’t pay in solidarity with those who can’t. Some will negotiate to pay less, and some of us will potentially face eviction.”
Over 300,000 people applied for unemployment in the last two weeks in North Carolina, and more are expected to in the coming weeks. While courts are not currently processing eviction cases, it’s still possible for landlords to take tenants to eviction court at a later date.
As the Triangle becomes more expensive, more families are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Durham is the most expensive county in the state for a family of four, costing more than $63,500 a year to live, followed closely by Wake ($63,400) and Orange ($60,295). Yet Durham County’s median household income is just over $58,000.
Governor Cooper signed an executive order on Tuesday to prevent utility companies from shutting off water, electricity, or gas if a tenant misses a payment, or charging late fees or interest. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has placed a hold on all eviction proceedings through April 17—and Cooper asked county clerks of Superior Court to extend it further—but Cooper’s order does not block landlords from collecting rent payments or prevent them from charging late fees or interest rates.
While 65 percent of North Carolinians live in homes they own, almost half of Durham County residents rent. If housing is considered “affordable” when it’s less than a third of your monthly budget, 49 percent of renters in Durham County have trouble affording their rent. In Orange County, 47 percent of renters struggle to pay rent, as do 41 percent of renters in Wake County.
If you’d like to participate in the rent strike, the Durham group’s website has sample letters to send to landlords and rental companies.
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