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What is the Difference Between a Rent Strike and a Rent Freeze?

photo by Josh Evnin

It’s the week of the 1st of the month during a pandemic, which means many individuals are looking hard at their bank account to figure out if they can make rent this week. Of course there has also been a wide variety of discourse around what aid for renters could look like, many bringing up both a rent strike or a rent freeze.

Some may find it difficult differentiating between these two separate gestures, but it’s important to now know the difference. 

Put simply, a rent strike is an organized action by renters against their landlord to not pay rent in search of a goal like rent cost decreases or building quality needs. A rent freeze is an action by a government body or the like in which a plan is put together to support renters and mortgage holders to alleviate the burden on both.

Both have merits and both are being talked about now. 

In Chicago, for example, a document has been circulating for a week or so calling specifically for a rent strike. 

“Across the city and country we’re hearing accounts of landlords putting a squeeze on vulnerable tenants,” the document said. “We have been forced out of work with insufficient government protections and backed against a wall as landlords continue to demand rent.”

As coronavirus continues to spread throughout the county, April 1st won’t be the only deadline that renters will find it hard to meet. The movement recognizes this, and the continental Autonomous Tenants Union Network is preparing tenants for a continental tenant action in May 2020.

Rent Freezes are especially being discussed in New York as the number of cases nears 200,000 and many who live in the city can’t pay rent already.

According to Timeout, Mayor de Blasio called for a freeze on rent increases for rent-stabilized units. 2.3 million tenants living in these apartments across NYC would not see their rents go up. 

“If ever there was a time there should be a rent freeze, it is now,” de Blasio explained at a news conference. “That’s something I think we have to do given the sheer severity of this crisis.”This article has been updated from its original to reflect new information. 

On the state level, senate legislation to waive rent payments for the next three months ahead has 20 co-sponsors. The proposed rent freeze bill would help those hit by the pandemic financially including residents left without work or cut wages and small business tenants who have been forced to close up shop.

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