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Did Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Propose a ‘Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act,’ But While ‘Failing to Explain How Landlords, Banks’ Would Pay Bills?

Claim

Democratic Party Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act contains no provisions for landlords and banks during the proposed period of rent and mortgage cancellation.

Rating

Not True

Reporting

On March 12 2021, Sean Hannity continued his disinformation offensive when he shared a post in a tweet that read, “THIS IS REAL: Omar Introduces Bill to ‘Cancel All Rent And Mortgage Payments Until April 2022′”:

Hannity.com’s Claims Versus Omar’s Remarks

Hannity linked to a Hannity.com item with a headline identical to the content of the tweet; it began:

Controversial Congresswoman Ilhan Omar introduced new legislation this week that would “permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments” until the Spring of 2022; failing to explain how landlords, banks, real estate developers, utility companies, and others would pay the bills for the next 12 months.

“I introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancelation Act, which would permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments until April 2022,” said Omar.

Footage of Rep. Omar’s then-recent remarks were shared by @TheHill, and in that clip, Omar said “the solution is to cancel rent and mortgage payments … I introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments until April 2022”:

The Hill did not link to its March 12 2021 article about Omar’s bill, but it was available on their site. Its headline (“Omar reintroduces bill seeking to cancel rent, mortgage payments during pandemic”) indicated that Omar did not initially introduce the proposal on March 11 2021 — it was reintroduced:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on [March 11 2021] introduced for the second time a bill that would guarantee full payment forgiveness on rent and home mortgage payments throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the bill, titled the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, there would be no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners, as well as no negative impact on a person’s credit rating or rental history.

The legislation also calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to establish and oversee a “Landlord Relief Fund,” to cover any losses landlords would receive as a result of the payment cancellations.

Omar, under the legislation, also hopes to increase the availability of affordable housing by creating an optional buyout to enable the purchase of private rental properties by nonprofits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments.

Subsequently, The Hill explained:

Omar first introduced the legislation in April [2020] as the pandemic first hit the country, spurring a financial crisis with widespread job losses and drops in income that put a strain on individuals attempting to meet rent and mortgage payments, as well as other costs of living.

However, the bill, which was introduced when Republicans still controlled the Senate, never received a vote.

Although Hannity.com said Omar’s bill “fail[ed] to explain how landlords, banks, real estate developers, utility companies, and others would pay the bills,” Omar’s highlighted remarks in the video were as follows:

In other cases [besides evictions and families becoming homeless], landlords are going bankrupt due to the lack of income. The solution is to cancel rent and mortgage payments. I introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, which would permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments, [and] also create a home lenders’ relief fund to fully compensate landlords and mortgage holders.

Both Omar and Hannity.com used the phrasing “permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments,” immediately followed by “until April 2022,” which was roughly a twelve-month duration. By definition, the bill did not involve a “permanently cancelled” housing payment obligation for anyone — it was a set temporary duration lasting roughly one year.

Omar’s bill notwithstanding, even in her remarks she said that the proposal involved a “home lenders’ relief fund” to compensate landlords and mortgage holders — entities already protected by the provisions of the bill.

Again, Hannity.com mentioned that Omar “fail[ed] to explain how landlords, banks, real estate developers, utility companies, and others would pay the bills.” This is a lie. Omar in fact explained how the first two entities (landlords and banks) would “pay the bills” via the relief fund she mentioned. As for real estate developers and utility companies, it was unclear how Omar’s legislation would affect them, as none of what she said involved a suspension of utility payments, nor did it appear as though the proposed legislation potentially placed any restrictions on real estate development.

March 11 2021 Statement: ‘Rep. Ilhan Omar Introduces Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act’

On March 11 2021, Omar’s office issued a press release on omar.house.gov, which included statements from the bill’s co-signers:

WASHINGTON— Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, a bill to institute a nationwide cancellation of rents and home mortgage payments through the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would constitute a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners and no negative impact on their credit rating or rental history.

Critically, the legislation will establish a relief fund for landlords and mortgage holders to cover losses from the cancelled payments. It will also create an optional buyout fund to fully finance the purchase of private rental properties by non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments—in order to increase the availability of affordable housing during this downturn.

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D., Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Raúl M. Grijalva, Mondaire Jones, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Ayanna Pressley, Pramila Jayapal, Bennie G. Thompson, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nydia M. Velázquez, Rashida Tlaib, Yvette D. Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Frederica S. Wilson, Jan Schakowsky, James P. McGovern, Jimmy Gomez, André Carson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler, and Cori Bush.

Once again, a mention and explanation of the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act was immediately followed by information about its effects on landlords and mortgage holders (in other words, banks), emphasized above. Whether somebody watched the video, read the press release, or both, it was difficult to miss the immediate subsequent focus on landlords and banks.

At the end of the statement, text read:

You can find a detailed one-pager on the legislation here.

You can read the full legislation here.

The detailed “one pager” and legislative framework was here [PDF]. Page two of the first PDF began with a “Legislative Summary”:

This legislation will create a payment cancellation for all rent payments and primary residence mortgage payments for the duration of the current national emergency declaration. The moratorium will be made retroactive to cover April 2020 payments and will constitute a full payment forgiveness, with no accumulation of debt for renters or homeowners. The federal government will provide relief funds to landlords and lenders, allowing them to recoup their losses, so long as they agree to abide by a set of fair renting and lending practices for a period of five years. Additionally, the federal government will create an optional buyout fund to fully finance the purchase of private rental properties by non-profits, public housing authorities, cooperatives, community land trusts, and states or local governments. This fund will be designed to mitigate the loss of viable homes in the wake of an economic downturn, to mitigate the risk of real estate speculation, and to increase the availability of affordable and low-income units in the market.

A second link [PDF] led to the entire proposed legislation, which was 26 pages long. Detailed information about the manner in which the rent and mortgage suspension would be structured and funded was included in the bill.

Summary

A tweet by Sean Hannity (“THIS IS REAL: Omar Introduces Bill to ‘Cancel All Rent And Mortgage Payments Until April 2022′”) linked to a Hannity.com item with a headline matching the content of his tweet.

It is true that Omar’s bill is “real,” in that a bill by that name exists. A first paragraph maintained that “Controversial Congresswoman Ilhan Omar introduced new legislation this week that would ‘permanently cancel all rent and mortgage payments’ until the Spring of 2022; failing to explain how landlords, banks, real estate developers, utility companies, and others would pay the bills for the next 12 months.”

It is not true, however, that Omar’s remarks or press release or the bill itself failed to explain “how landlords, banks, real estate developers, utility companies, and others would pay the bills for the next 12 months.” Not only did her remarks, press release, and bill prominently explain how those entities would “pay the bills,” there was nothing in the bill that outwardly appeared to affect utility companies or real estate developers.