City Activists Call for Rent Cancellation
Milwaukee’s S2 Real Estate has evicted 82 tenants since September.
Peace had traveled to the building hoping to help her daughter pay her rent. “I’m here because my daughter has a special needs child,” she tells Wisconsin Examiner. “So I would’ve been coming here with her, just to do this, and then they’re not even open.”
Since September, the company has evicted 82 tenants, despite the federal moratorium against such actions due to the pandemic. The company houses around 550 tenants. Employees at S2 told Wisconsin Examiner that the owner, Sam Stair, wasn’t available for comment.
“We’re not going to drop this,” said Penner, arguing that landlords like S2 should be accountable to the people they rent to. When Penner and company arrived, he noticed how the building’s staff responded by locking the door. “They’ve already decided that they don’t want anything to do with us,” he says.
The activists marched in circles in front of S2, chanting, handing out fliers and earning supportive honks from passing cars. Peace wasn’t part of the organized picket but she and other locked out tenants expressed discontent: “When these tenants come to pay their rent and [S2 Real Estate] are mad because they’re on a piece of property, they ain’t scared then. So why are you scared of this?”
Peace added that that staff members are sometimes rude and that the companies such as S2 are taking advantage of low-income tenants. “They pass through the properties,” said Peace, “and you’re stuck in there with roaches, and mice, and plumbing that ain’t working, and you’re sitting there waiting. And then they don’t get nothing done.”
Penner says this type of situation is common in low-income neighborhoods. “What they do is they rent to low-income people on purpose — people that have one, or two or three evictions on their records. They charge them double security in order to rent their apartments.”
Penner feels the federal eviction moratorium, which was recently extended, is not enough. “There needs to be a statewide moratorium,” he says. “We want to shut down the circuit court from filing evictions. Because even getting a five-day notice turns your world upside down.”
Penner’s organization is also calling for a rent cancellation. “We want to see all this back-rent that’s accumulated during this coronavirus pandemic, this economic crisis, we want to see that forgiven,” he says. Ultimately, we want to see the federal government and the banks pay off that back rent. We want to see rent forgiveness at the federal level.”
Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.