Florida should freeze rent during coronavirus pandemic

Rent is an issue that’s often on the minds of many off-campus students. Although most apartments around USF are labeled as “student housing,” they are far from cheap, going for an average of $800 to $1,000 per month if you include utilities and bills.

Typically, students work full time, part time or have financial support from their parents to pay rent and other expenses.

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, students are being asked to stay home and off campus. Many are losing hours of part-time jobs or are being laid off. The issue is that even though a lot of students are losing their sources of income, they are still required to continue paying for rent and bills.

Some students have traveled back to stay with their families in other cities, states or even countries. So, they are being forced to pay rent and bills for empty apartments because of signed leases.

A logical solution to this issue would be a government-issued moratorium on rent payments for people affected by COVID-19. A moratorium would decrease the stress and panic that USF students have to endure with losing their jobs and paying rent while their families could be at risk. For students, they won’t have to worry about looking for jobs at such a stressful time during their academic careers

Freezing rent would also be an incentive for people to stay home and help decrease the spread of the virus. If someone shows COVID-19 symptoms but has no other option but to work, they should still stay home, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet with rent and bills on their mind, many may go to work sick anyway. This increases the chances of the spread of the virus in workplaces and in the community.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced March 18 that he is suspending the execution of eviction notices through April 20 due to widespread effects of the virus, but is that enough? 

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day halt on mortgage payments owed by individuals. This takes pressure off landlords with mortgages, which can help ease the pressure off tenants. Even though it’s not a complete halt for rent, it’s a positive step toward a necessary solution.

Similarly, the New York State Legislature is considering a bill that would freeze rent for 90 days and offer mortgage assistance to landlords, shifting the burden to banks that will likely receive help from the federal government. The bill currently has 20 cosponsors in the New York State Senate.

State and local officials in Florida should look to policies like these and consider implementing them. Rent needs to be frozen so students can focus on their academics and care for their family members. Then, students could stay safe at home and protect public health.

Mohamed Abdelmagaid is a junior studying political science and integrated public relations and advertising.