Groups call for extension of tenant relief measures

    (Stock/Getty Images)
    (Stock/Getty Images)

    Middle Tennessee Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and its offshoot Red Door Collective (RDC) called on elected officials to extend current economic relief to Nashvillians through temporary suspensions of evictions and utility shutoffs.

    Metro Nashville Councilmember Sean Parker (District 5), a DSA member, plans to introduce resolutions to address the issues.

    “It’s absolutely critical that we do everything we can to support residents through this crisis,” said Parker.

    Evictions and utility shut-offs have been delayed until June but the group’s  petition seeks to further extend the provisions until unemployment rates have returned to pre-COVID-19 rates of 2.8 percent. Additionally, they ask that empty hotels be converted to house those experiencing eviction or homelessness.

    Nashville Councilmember Sean Parker, District 5 (Photo from Twitter)
    Nashville Councilmember Sean Parker, District 5 (Photo from Twitter)

    According to information provided by the DSA, the people of Davidson County will be significantly, financially hurt by the pandemic and its lingering effects on the economy.

    “We believe it necessary to anchor the already existing moratorium on evictions and utilities shut-offs to a tangible economic measure such as unemployment rates,” said Sam Knox, a spokesman for DSA, as the motivator behind their petition.

    Members fear that “a premature return to ‘business as usual’” will be a disaster for Nashville’s unstable housing market.

    Several members discussed issues currently facing Nashville residents, which they believe are being overlooked in the rush to reopen the economy. Nashville-specific issues include musicians who have previously identified as self-employed and were thus  denied unemployment when they were no longer able to perform in Nashville’s lively music scene.

    Musician Dylan Lancaster does not support reopening the entertainment industry as it would put musicians at risk and instead asks Nashville to do more to support performers, such as buying records, donating and supporting covid bills that provide further relief.

    “Kicking folks out on the street during the worst pandemic of our lifetime is not only cruel but dangerous,” said Lancaster, RDC member. “It’s practically a death sentence for members of our most vulnerable communities.”

    DSA wants relief bills to extend to immigrant workers who are unable to legally work and may experience landlords who leverage their legal status against them. Most are ineligible for the stimulus package despite contributing to Nashville’s economy, said Vanessa Diaz from Workers Dignity.

    There is a link between severe health problems and eviction, according to Kristine Hoang, committee member of Healthy & Free Tennessee. The social determinants of health, said Hoang, means unemployment, food security and housing have large impacts on public health.

    A study by Rice University found  low-income mothers reported  depression and poor health for themselves  and their children due to threats of eviction. Hoang believes that homelessness and eviction threats will have long-term consequences for the public such as birth outcomes, mental health and substance abuse.

    Already homeless shelters have reported to have high amounts of COVID-19 infections due to overcrowding and Nashville’s homeless shelters have temporarily closed their doors to new residents.

    “Not only is it an issue of public health, but one that we as a community cannot afford to leave untreated,” said Hoang.

    The DSA was formed in 1982 when several social democratic and labor-oriented groups merged. Prominent elected officials who identify as DSA members include U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13.)

    The Red Door Collective describes itself on the DSA’s website as a grassroots network of Nashville residents  . . . working to bring Nashville together in a time of crisis. The Red Door Collective creates resources collectively to combat some of the struggles we are experiencing together due to the current economic and political climate.