The City and Borough of Juneau Assembly has recently taken up providing rent relief in Juneau.
Even before the pandemic began, people have been struggling to find and maintain housing, especially with the reduction in social services put in place under the executive branches of both the state and federal level. When the pandemic ends, many of our neighbors who can least afford it will be expected to survive without employment, without adequate health care, and with increased debt and expenses.
If the city truly wants to help its citizens through the current crisis and into what appears to be a looming depression in the state and the nation, it would do so best by suspending rent and mortgage collection throughout the city.
Right now, the city may help at most 83 households by paying an intermediary, the Alaska Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit corporation that the city recently happily sold land to, but also was found lacking in a federal audit and was noted to have an eight-month waiting period for housing in a 2016 news article. This does nothing to help tenants choosing between rent or food and medicine now. By forgoing property taxes and suspending mortgage and rent payments, the city could immediately help nearly everyone in town weather this together, putting the onus on the federal government and those most able to afford it, the banks and corporations that were bailed out during the last recession at the expense of everyday Americans.
This time we need to keep money in the hands of Juneauites to afford food and medicine first. Pass-through relief that immediately leaves the hands of essential workers, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly doesn’t cut it. Let us keep our rent while stimulus checks and relief gets worked out, because Juneau’s share of problems is not going to be solved quickly.
If we can truly get the purported financial relief to working-class Americans, we will need it to emerge from this pandemic back into Alaska’s fiscal crisis and a possible national depression. Let’s share the burden of this crisis together instead of on the backs of the working class. Cancel rent, mortgage and property tax collection. Rent payment will either stop with the city’s blessing or when a very large portion of Juneauites have to choose between feeding their children or paying rent. Please make the right choice.
Please make the right choice.
• Phil Moser is a lifelong Juneauite and an avid volunteer. He is currently involved with the Juneau Tenant Support group to assist with mutual aid networks in the city.