Calls grow to cancel rent, mortgage payments in coronavirus crisis

SEATTLE — The coronavirus pandemic means a lot of frantic calls at the offices of Seattle City Council members.

"My office has been flooded with emails and calls. Our neighbors are calling for rent assistance, for mortgage assistance," council member Tammy Morales said Wednesday.

Morales said she's also hearing from property owners. “(They) say my small business tenants are shut so I understand they're not bringing in revenue, but I still have a mortgage to pay, so what am I supposed to do?"

The economic crisis is especially felt at the beginning of the month, when many rent and mortgage payments are due.

"We know that during this public health crisis, when people have been ordered to stay home, that those who have lost their jobs are now at risk of losing their homes and small businesses are at risk of shutting if they can't pay rent," Morales said.

Morales on Wednesday joined a virtual meeting with City Council members from around the country, each supporting the message described by Hillary Ronen of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who led the call.

"We need an immediate moratorium on mortgages and to cancel rent," Ronen said.

This week the Seattle City Council called on Gov. Jay Inslee to suspend rent payments and on President Trump to suspend mortgage payments.

Roger Valdez of Seattle for Growth represents property owners.

He opposes a moratorium and suggests a different approach.

“It makes perfect sense for housing providers and residents to get together and say, ‘Hey, I lost my job, let’s work something out so we get through the other side of this problem,’” Valdez said.