B1 Intermediate US 16 Folder Collection
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One immediate problem that millions of Americans are facing is making their rent, as you just
heard, or mortgage payment. Nearly a third of people who rented an apartment didn't pay
any of their rent -- any of their rent -- during the first week of April, according to one
analysis.
A separate poll found about half of small businesses have not paid their full rent or
mortgage yet either.
Paul Solman looks at the problems renters and landlords are facing.
It's part of his reporting for Making Sense.
EUNICE BAE, Actress: Come on. Do a session with me.
PAUL SOLMAN: Eunice Bae is an actress, sporadic short-term gigs, monthly Manhattan rent.
EUNICE BAE: Dude!
I wasn't making a lot of money this winter, and I actually fell behind on rent one month.
PAUL SOLMAN: And then along came COVID-19.
EUNICE BAE: I was actually doing well enough this first quarter that I was on the path
to finally being able to pay off that missing month, and then the virus hit, and then everything
went away.
PAUL SOLMAN: With theaters dark everywhere in the country, work nonexistent, Bae quickly
called unemployment insurance.
EUNICE BAE: I am one of the lucky few that I got through to unemployment on Monday, after
389 calling attempts. Every time I hit the green button, I made a tally mark.
And from what I hear, that's a success story.
(LAUGHTER)
PAUL SOLMAN: But successfully filing is another matter entirely.
EUNICE BAE: You need to stipulate each employer, their federal employer identification number
and your last day of working. As a gig worker, I had, I think, 11 employers in the last 18
months.
But for the work I did this quarter, I haven't gotten any paperwork from them yet, because
it's not the end of the year. I don't know if I have been approved. I don't know if I'm
eligible. I don't know how much I will be getting, or when, if at all.
PAUL SOLMAN: Bae's is the plight of tenants everywhere in this country right now.
MARIO SALERNO, Brooklyn Landlord: Would you like a doughnut?
PAUL SOLMAN: So much so that Brooklyn landlord Mario Salerno, who also runs a sizable auto
repair business, has become a New York hero and local media celebrity for waiving the
April rent for his 200 or so tenants.
MARIO SALERNO: I had tenants that said they can't work, they didn't have money to pay
me. I says, don't worry about paying me. Worry about your neighbor. Worry about your family.
PAUL SOLMAN: But fellow Brooklyn landlord Chris Athineos, nine buildings, 150 units,
says he can't afford such largess.
CHRIS ATHINEOS, Brooklyn Landlord: My oldest building was built in 1850, when, I think,
Millard Fillmore was president of the United States. We have facades that need to be maintained,
roofs, plumbing, electrical. It never ends.
PAUL SOLMAN: Not to mention utilities, staff salaries, and the largest obligation of all:
CHRIS ATHINEOS: Our mortgage payment, which includes an escrow amount for our real estate
taxes.
I do fear, if there's a big drop off in rent collection, people are not working, can't
pay rent, then how will I pay the mortgage?
PAUL SOLMAN: Jan Lee's family has owned two buildings in Manhattan's Chinatown for nearly
a century. But the 22 apartments are rent-stabilized, a form of semi-rent control. So his three
commercial properties subsidize the residential tenants, he says.
JAN LEE, Manhattan Landlord: And the cosmetic store closed even before the lockdown happened,
because she also did facials. And, obviously, this close, intimate contact, of course, nobody
would want to come. And she didn't want to do them either.
PAUL SOLMAN: His other two commercial leases are for restaurants, one of them, Hop Kee,
a Chinatown landmark for over 50 years.
PETER LEE, Hop Kee Restaurant: Well, the situation leaves a lot of people with no choice but
to close up.
PAUL SOLMAN: So will Jan Lee's commercial tenants keep paying their rent?
JAN LEE: I only received rent from one of my commercial tenants, and I don't think I
will receive any rent for the for the month of May.
PAUL SOLMAN: And if he can't pay his real estate taxes on July 1?
JAN LEE: There's an automatic lien on your property. That lien is sold to a third party,
companies that purchase liens. And it's up to them to charge whatever they want for the
interest. And it's always in double digits. It's way more than your -- your worst credit
card.
PAUL SOLMAN: Double digits?
JAN LEE: Oh, absolutely. You're looking at a potential foreclosure very, very, very quickly
of small property owners.
PAUL SOLMAN: George Sweeting of the city's Independent Budget Office says foreclosure
could take awhile. But that still leaves the big question.
Is the city going to cut small landlords some slack on their taxes?
GEORGE SWEETING, New York City Independent Budget Office: It may decide to do that. But,
when it does that, it has to think about where the money will come from to make up the lost
property tax revenue.
The city needs that property tax revenue to do its basic services, teach kids, pay the
police, pay the fire, pay the sanitation. And right now, there's not evidence that the
federal government, with all of its stimulus programs, is actually going to deliver much
assistance to local governments.
PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, an online movement has started in New York and elsewhere: #cancelrent.
NICOLAS RETSINAS, Harvard University: That can lead to unraveling of property tax revenues,
of insurance proceeds, of utility bills.
PAUL SOLMAN: New York state has put a 90-day moratorium on evictions.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I want to protect the people of the state of New York as much
as I
PAUL SOLMAN: But, says housing economist Nicolas Retsinas, if tenants use that as a reason
to stop paying rent:
NICOLAS RETSINAS: I wouldn't call a ticking time bomb, but it's certainly, I think, a
loud alarm clock that says, in 90 to 120 days, all of a sudden, these rents will become due.
And these people are still unemployed, waiting in an unemployment line, getting unemployment
insurance, they're not going to be able to pay their rent, and the alarm will go off.
PAUL SOLMAN: OK, for Eunice Bae, the theater industry is moribund. And looking ahead:
EUNICE BAE: There's a lot more people out of work competing for a very finite amount
of jobs, and maybe even less jobs than before, because some theaters may not be able to open
up after this is all done.
PAUL SOLMAN: Brooklyn landlord Chris Athineos:
CHRIS ATHINEOS: I have a vacant apartment, and I have a couple of tenants whose leases
were expiring, and they have already told me they're not planning to renew their lease.
I'm afraid, how am I going to rent those apartments?
The whole city is shut down. Certainly, no one is moving here from outside of New York
City to get a job.
PAUL SOLMAN: And no one is coming to Chinatown.
JAN LEE: The restaurants don't have bookings. We are very, very close to completely losing
everything that my family has built up for three generations. And we are not unique.
PAUL SOLMAN: And, thus, the looming cascade: no jobs, to no rent, to no taxes, in which
case, how do cities like New York come back when its people return to the streets?
For the "PBS NewsHour," Paul Solman, still home.
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New York landlord distressed tenant rents

16 Folder Collection
ety published on April 13, 2020
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