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Chicago Mayor Unveils 'Pledge' For Landlords, Tenants Affected By COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago's mayor wants renters left unemployed during the COVID-19 crisis to know landlords and lenders will help them. But all parties have to keep lines of communication open.

Called the "Housing Solidarity Pledge" it's set up to make sure they can work together to make sure people don't lose their residences because of the coronavirus.

"Our bold, data-driven response to the COVID-19 virus has already yielded important gains to our public health, but it has also come with additional costs that are being borne out by those least able to afford them," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Landlords, lenders and advocacy organizations joined Lightfoot in underlining some of the points of the pledge, which include strategies for renters to make good faith efforts to their landlords.

"People can't just forgo making any effort to pay rent or a mortgage. We just can't do that. We all have obligations to each other, and we must endeavor, even in this difficult time, as best we can to meet those obligations," Lightfoot noted.

The pledge is a series of recommendations for both city landlords and renters to communicate their needs and plans as the stay-at-home order stretches into the end of May.

Some of the proposed plans under the pledge include:

• Grace Period for Rent Payments: Offer deferred payments with repayment terms that avoid repayment at the end of the deferral period.

• Written Repayment Plan: Permit renters with a missed rent payment to amortize the payments over time.

• No Late Fees for Missed Payments: Provide relief from rent-related late fees.

Chicago Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said that those who are working and not financially impacted by the coronavirus epidemic can lend a hand to their neighbors in need.

"We are asking landlords to work out flexible payment plans with tenants, and to do so, they need flexibility from their lenders. Tenants who have lost work, communicate with your building owner and try to work out a plan," Novara said. "And tenants who have not lost work, support those who have by paying your rent."

Lenders part of the housing pledge promise to adhere to:

• Grace Period for Mortgage Payments: Offer deferred payments with repayment terms that avoid immediate repayment at the end of the deferral period.

• Suspension of Foreclosures: Provide relief from foreclosure filing until May 31, 2020.

• Neutral Reporting to Credit Agencies: No reporting late payments to credit reporting agencies, consistent with applicable guidelines, for residential borrowers taking advantage of COVID-19 related relief, provided that loans that were delinquent prior to deferral will continue to be reported as delinquent.

• No Late Fees for Missed Payments: Provide relief from mortgage-related fees.

The city said the Department of Housing received 83,000 applications for the one-time $1,000 cash grants and that it's "working to find additional resources for a second round of funding."

But not all tenant advocacy groups feel the pledge will help everyone. A statement by the Autonomous Tenants Union said the city's existing policies are insufficient.

"The utter lack of leadership extends to inaction on the statewide rent control ban, which, if lifted, would allow for an effective and unilateral city policy regarding rent," said the organization in a statement. "Over 83,000 Chicago residents have applied for emergency rental assistance through the COVID-19 Housing Assistance Grant Program, a lottery which offered $1,000 grants to only 2,000 fortunate recipients. Meanwhile, the rest have been abandoned by their elected officials."

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