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Mayor Lightfoot, Landlords Have Doubts About Alderman's Proposal To Defer Rent

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Another dismal unemployment report is expected on Thursday amid this coronavirus crisis.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov on Wednesday looked at the mounting urgency to help renters and homeowners.

One rent and mortgage cycle has already passed since the crisis began, and another is on the horizon. And a lot of people are struggling to find the money to pay it.

One alderman has an idea. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot is not sure it can work.

As people stay in their homes to fight the coronavirus, many are wondering how they will continue paying for them now that it appears the stay-at-home order will extend beyond April 30.

Ald. Matt Martin (47th) is getting ready to introduce the ordinance, giving renters a rent pass for up to three months during the stay-at-home order – and then allowing them to pay the missed rent over the following 12 months.

Renters say it could help. Landlords are not so enthused.

"I don't think not paying rent in and of itself is a solution," said Chicago building owner Carl Pettigrew.

Pettigrew owns several multi-unit buildings in Chicago, and serves on the board of the Chicagoland Apartment Association. He said the ordinance's trickle-up impact, for landlords, could be devastating.

"Without revenue, I'm not sure how – no matter if you own a three-flat or a six-flat or a 12-unit building – how you're supposed to pay your mortgage, your property taxes, your water bill," he said.

It is a concern that was echoed by other landlords at a virtual City Council meeting on Wednesday.

"The challenge is the mortgages," Mayor Lightfoot said.

The mayor said helping landlords get mortgage relief is essential to offering renters relief.

"But we need to continue to press at the federal level – the federal government to get relief – and in particular to press the banks to give some relief to mortgage holders," Lightfoot said.

So far, other federally backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, that relief is not there. Ald. Martin agrees that it should be part of the solution.

Pettigrew said in the meantime, he is doing what he can.

"We will not impose any late fees. We will not impose any rent increases," he said.

Ald. Martin is not sure when his ordinance will be officially introduced, but he wanted to get the ball rolling.

He is also introducing a resolution calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to call on big banks and other private mortgage lenders to offer a mortgage forbearance like is happening in other states.

Kozlov reached out to a spokeswoman for the Governor's office, asking if the office had heard back from any big banks. She was not able to give any specifics.

For renters for now, the overall advice - other than trying to get help from other existing programs that are out there – is simply to talk to your landlord and see if you can work something out.

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