Opinion | Moratoriums aren’t enough. Cancel rent.

Half-baked solutions aren’t enough. We need bold action immediately, and that means cancelling rent.

Adam Engelbrecht, Opinions Columnist

As of Sept. 4, a nationwide eviction moratorium has been established by federal authorities. This will prevent tenants who are behind on rent payments from getting evicted, provided they follow the right steps for the rest of the year.

There are many problems with this solution, if you could call it a solution at all. First, it is being interpreted very differently among different judges. Depending on where someone lives and what judge is presiding over their eviction proceedings, they could have very different outcomes.

Second, this “solution” does nothing to address the fundamental problems that tenants face, both during the current pandemic and beyond.

The eviction moratorium is not a cancellation of rent. It’s not even a rent freeze. Tenants will still owe their rent at the end of every month, and that money will keep adding up. Come January, tenants can owe four or five months of rent and will face eviction if they can’t cough it up.

It should go without saying that being evicted is a truly horrific experience, especially in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession. On top of being forcibly removed from your living space, everything from your credit score to your ability to rent from someplace else is adversely affected.

We need a more comprehensive solution for a far-reaching problem. In this context, that means a federal rent cancellation.

A rent cancellation, specifically H.R. 6515 — a bill sponsored by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Min. — would be far different than the current eviction moratorium in a few key ways.

First, it means lifting the burden of rent payment entirely from the shoulders of tenants, not just pushing that burden back a few months. H.R. 6515 would “eliminate all rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 national emergency, retroactive to April 1.”

Second, it means prohibiting this from having any effect on “eviction, fines, or a lowered credit score.” These are obviously huge problems that need to be taken very seriously.

Third, the bill would create relief funds for landlords, who have also been struggling during the pandemic. With the current moratorium delaying rent payments, they have not been getting enough help.

The hallmark of the government’s responses to the pandemic and the resulting economic devastation has been underwhelming mediocrity. But in the case of the rent moratorium, the situation is far worse than mediocrity.

By letting rent accumulate for tenants while not offering any relief to landlords, the response to this devastation has solved one problem (temporarily) while creating at least two more.

Canceling rent would solve every problem all at once.

Of course, for this to happen, it would have to pass the House and Senate in order to become law. This is a tough task. Republicans will use every conceivable avenue to strike the bill down.

This is true. But the burden is not all on Republicans.

H.R. 6515  has a total of 27 cosponsors in the House, all of which are Democrats. None of the cosponsors are from Iowa, even though three of our state’s congressional delegation are Democrats.

Democrats have rhetorically positioned themselves as the party of big ideas, the party of bold action. Let’s hold them to that, and demand they cancel rent.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.