Ayanna Pressley's landlord problem

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

All through the debate over the impending eviction crisis, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Presley (D) has been one of the most vocal advocates of the “cancel rent” movement. She was one of the authors of the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which has been submitted in Congress twice now but not acted upon. As we’ve noted previously, there are significant questions of potential hypocrisy and propriety in this matter for Pressley, as she and her husband own rental property themselves. If she was collecting rent from tenants while declaring that blanket rent cancellation is “a matter of life and death,” that’s a seriously bad look for her. Further, the proposed law would provide relief for landlords who were unable to collect rent during the pandemic-induced moratoriums on evictions. That could mean that Pressley’s family might be benefitting financially from the legislation she sponsored. Questions of how much, if any rental income Pressley received in 2020 should have been answered when she filed her financial disclosure statements, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer for that as she has requested an extension on the deadline to do so. (Free Beacon)

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) postponed filing her 2020 financial disclosure as the liberal congresswoman faced questions about whether she made money as a landlord during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pressley moved to extend her filing deadline by 90 days on April 26, just one week after the Washington Free Beacon reported that she collected up to $15,000 in rental income during a four-month period in 2019. Pressley has championed rent cancellation bills throughout the pandemic, calling such legislation “literally a matter of life and death.”

Months into the pandemic, Pressley and her husband refinanced their Boston building as a multifamily investment property, local records show.

Since these extensions are granted pretty much automatically, Pressley will now have until August 13 to file her financial disclosure forms. When she was previously asked by reporters whether or not she had been collecting rent during the pandemic, she declined to answer. While that doesn’t prove anything, it would have been extremely easy and politically advantageous to say that she wasn’t doing so as a matter of principle if that was the case.

In fairness to Pressley, not all tenants have failed to pay their rent since last spring when the eviction moratoriums went into effect. The same statement applies to many homeowners who have kept up with their mortgages. Anyone who was able to keep their jobs or otherwise maintain a stream of income should have been able to make those payments as they usually would. And if Pressley and her husband were owed rent and their tenants paid them, there’s nothing wrong with that.

As to when the moratoriums will end and crisis will reach its crest, that question is up in the air. Two weeks ago a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing an eviction moratorium, effectively canceling it. But the Justice Department immediately moved to appeal the ruling and requested an injunction on the ruling, so it’s still basically in effect. Further, there appears to be little appetite in Congress or the White House to extend the moratoriums further, so they should all be ending in the coming few months.

There are currently tens of billions of dollars available through the COVID relief bills for both renters and landlords. But effectively distributing that money and educating people about how to access it has been quite challenging. HHS estimates that 18% of renters in the country are currently behind on their rent and nearly a quarter of eviction cases have been allowed to move forward. The entire situation is a hot mess and when it’s over we’re likely going to learn that a significant portion of the small-business, mom-and-pop landlords around the country have gone under.