City Councilman Calls for Freeze on Rents, Mortgages and Negative Credit Reporting

Councilman Canek Aguirre is docketed at tonight’s City Council meeting to introduce a resolution calling for state and federal officials to put a potential moratorium on rents and mortgages and to suspend the reporting of negative credit information by credit bureaus to protect people’s credit scores.

Aguirre said in a press release that the aim of the resolution is protect renters, homeowners, small businesses, and landlords struggling to make ends meet.

“People are scared,” Aguirre said. “They’ve lost their jobs or had their hours drastically cut. They can’t afford to pay their rent or mortgages and are afraid of building up debt. Many small businesses are struggling to stay open. Small landlords aren’t sure what to do and commercial landlords are scrambling to figure things out as a result of this unprecedented crisis. We need bold action from all levels of government to get us through this pandemic. We can’t have residents fearful of being put out on the street. We need residents to be able to focus on staying healthy and beating this virus.”

Canek has previously discussed the possibility of crafting a resolution as he was trying to negotiate the confrontation between tenants and administrators at Southern Towers.

The resolution notes that the Virginia Supreme Court has declared a judicial emergency and ordered a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions as a result of COVID-19, but said renters are still obligated to pay landlords, and mortgage-holders are still obligated to pay lenders.

“Retaining the obligation to pay during this challenging economic time would mean that those who are forced to defer payments will accumulate significant personal debt with months of back-payments and fees, as well as damaged credit,” the resolution says. “It is critically important that Alexandria residents who currently have housing are not made homeless or destitute because of this public health crisis.”

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, meaning powers not explicitly granted to the local governments are retained by the state. This means Alexandria cannot impose a rent freeze itself, but is instead reliant on state authority to do so. There has been some movement recently, however, towards some of the Dillon Rule restrictions being relaxed, including a bill signed by Gov. Ralph Northam this weekend that allows localities to take down Confederate statues.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution at tonight’s (Tuesday) City Council meeting at 7 p.m., streamed on the city website and on Zoom.

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