Activists Push For Rent Cancellation and Electricity Shut-Off Moratorium During Crisis

NextGen Michigan is hosting an online “Cancel Rent” event this week to urge state officials to offer relief to renters.

A row of houses in Highland Park

Highland Park

More than 1 million unemployment claims have been filed in Michigan. That leaves housing activists worried about how out-of-work residents will pay for rent and utilities, and avoid evictions for the duration of the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“People are facing unprecedented levels of unemployment, looking at their bills and saying ‘How am I going to afford to stay where I’m currently living?'” — Eden Zimak, NextGen Michigan

Laura Herberg/WDET
Laura Herberg/WDET

“We know that people are facing unprecedented levels of unemployment and looking at their bills and saying like, how am I going to afford to stay where I’m currently living?” Says Eden Zimak, an organizer with NextGen Michigan, the state’s chapter of a national progressive advocacy group.

NextGen Michigan is demanding rent cancellation, an extension of the eviction moratorium that’s already in place and a moratorium on utility shut-offs (there’s currently a moratorium on water shut-offs but not electricity) through the end of the state of emergency.

Landlords have reported financial anxiety as well, though the Wayne County treasurer has suspended tax foreclosures for the remainder of the year. Zimak says landlords and utilities are better positioned during the crisis. 

“Someone who has the capital to invest in a second property has more resources than a renter, and is a lot more equipped to navigate a complicated financial process with a bank than a renter is,” Zimak says. “We have to protect our most vulnerable populations first, and our most vulnerable population in this regard is tenants.” 

Related: What To Do If You Don’t Have Rent Money Right Now

NextGen Michigan is hosting a digital “Cancel Rent” event on Wednesday, May 13 starting at noon.

Over the course of the online meeting, which is free and open to the public with registration, NextGen Michigan organizers will be urging residents to call Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and state senators with their demands.

Click on the player at the top of the page to hear NextGen Michigan’s Eden Zimak discuss the impact of COVID-19 on renters.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.