Ayanna Pressley's rent cancellation hypocrisy

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool

We’ve covered the looming eviction crisis extensively here, including the impact that will be felt by both tenants and landlords when the various eviction moratoriums come to an end as the country emerges from the pandemic and the shutdown of our economy. One of the more vocal proponents of the “cancel rent” movement has been progressive “squad” member Ayanna Pressley, who has called for federal forgiveness of all overdue rental payments as part of the COVID relief effort. A less well-known fact about Pressley is that she and her husband are actually one of the small-business landlords who own a rental property and collect the aforementioned rent. Since one part of her proposal includes providing relief for landlords who would be affected by having their tenants’ payments “canceled,” questions are being raised about whether or not she would be personally profiting from the legislation she’s endorsing. (Free Beacon)

The progressive congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) has called rent cancellation legislation “literally a matter of life and death.” At the same time, she has collected from her own rental properties.

Pressley and her husband made as much as $15,000 in rental income in 2019 after purchasing a $658,000 Boston home, according to property records and financial disclosures reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The income appears to come over the course of four months—the unit was first listed for $2,500 a month in June 2019 and the posting was removed in August.

Pressley and her husband refinanced the building as a multifamily investment property in August 2020. That requires the couple to maintain rent loss insurance.

Questions were sent to Pressley and her husband as to whether their tenants paid the rent during the pandemic but she didn’t provide an answer. She and her fellow squad members authored the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act which was submitted both last year and again this year, but it hasn’t been acted on yet. The bill would require the federal government (meaning the taxpayers) to reimburse all landlords below a certain size to be reimbursed for any back rent while forcing them to allow their non-paying tenants to resume payments and stay in their rental units.

Since I first began writing about the eviction crisis more than a year ago, it’s been obvious that this situation could only end in one of two ways. Either there would be a massive number of people evicted from their homes and mom-and-pop landlords would be driven out of business or the taxpayers would be put on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in unpaid rent. Free-market capitalism would dictate the former outcome with the chips falling as they may. The more socialist approach would divide the cost among everyone. But blanket forgiveness is also problematic because of the many reported cases of deadbeat tenants jumping on the bandwagon to avoid paying the rent even though they never lost their jobs during the pandemic. There’s also the question of what to do about all of the tenants around the country who scrimped and saved and did the right thing by continuing to pay their rent on time despite the hardships most people were undergoing.

After considering Pressley’s situation, I’m actually finding it hard to be too critical of her. She’s entitled to own and operate a rental property while serving in Congress just like anyone else. And the amount of money she would recoup (roughly $15,000) if her tenants have not been paying isn’t exactly a king’s ransom. But if the proposed legislation goes through, both Pressley and any other members who vote on the bill should be forced to report any payments they receive for scrutiny by the voters.