New York City mayor Bill de Blasio slipped on his bad idea jeans again on Thursday in a tweet saying that all New Yorkers who need it should have their rent deferred for 12 months. It is an idea he floated in mid-April, but his nemesis Gov. Andrew Cuomo swatted it down and everyone kind of hoped de Blasio would forget about it. Apparently he hasn’t.
Now’s the time to go even further. Tenants are hurting. We need to let every New Yorker who needs it to be able to defer rent payments for up to 12 months.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) May 7, 2020
There are so many reasons why this is an insane idea that it’s hard to know where to start. But how about with this question, what happens in 12 months when a year’s rent comes due at once? The average New Yorker would be looking a final bill of well over $20,000, what are they supposed to do? Get some scratch off tickets and hope for the best?
It is exceedingly likely that many, if not most of those who choose deferment would not be able to pay it all back at once in addition to new rent charges. So how will this work? Will we see mass evictions as the “beneficiaries” of this program run out of time? Will a city that is already billions in debt find some way to bail them out? How?
But of course it’s not just the renters who suffer under this ludicrous plan of action. Landlords, many of whom have mortgages, will have no revenue to pay those mortgages, or maintain upkeep on the property. Will banks forgo foreclosures waiting for landlords to recoup the lost rent from tenants who probably can’t pay it? This is an upside down Ponzi scheme crafted by a desperate mayor who has faltered badly in recent months.
The problem is real. The longer the city stays shut down, the more people and families will fall behind in their rent. In New York the situation is especially acute as rent is expected to be a much higher percentage of overall income than in most areas of the country. This is the economic crisis that we have spent two months saying it is offensive to even discuss in the face of a global pandemic. Well, offensive or not, it’s here, and fantasyland freebies that the government can’t pay for won’t fix it.
The only plausible step that can be taken to limit the number of renters who go completely underwater is to reopen the economy and allow people to earn a paycheck again. This is hard for de Blasio to understand because in his world there is a giant pot of gold guarded by some evil Republican leprechaun that can just pay for everyone’s lives. As Homer Simpson once noted, “communism works in theory,” but this ain’t philosophy class and de Blasio can’t back up his talk.
Over the past two months the economic side of this crisis has been painful, but not yet crippling in the ways it promises to become should the shut down continue. Savings are dwindling, relatives to borrow from becoming scarcer, but the bills keep coming and the mayor cannot magically wish them away. New York City needs a serious plan for recovery and it needs it fast. A summer without significant reopening will crush many of Gotham’s denizens.
Thus far, Mayor de Blasio has given his constituents no reason to believe he has the capacity or will to bring the city back to life. This laughable latest effort isn’t even really an effort; it just kicks the economic can of doom down the road a few months.
The mayor needs to talk less about the New Deal style socialist society he hopes emerges from the crisis and more about how people are supposed to pay their rent, whether now or in 12 months. This is real life for millions of New Yorkers and we need a mayor who takes it seriously.