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'Think Of It As A Rent Jubilee': Tenant Advocate Cea Weaver On The Cancel Rent Movement

In this series, Make Yourself At Home, we are hearing from members of the commercial real estate industry about how they are managing this new reality and gaining insight into their day-to-day approaches. You can subscribe on iTunes and Spotify

Cea Weaver, a tenant advocate in New York for the Upstate/Downstate Housing Alliance

This week, our guest is Cea Weaver, the campaign co-ordinator at Housing Justice for All, a statewide coalition of tenant groups. She is one of the advocates that helped push for broad changes to New York’s rent laws last year — she says achieving far more than advocates expected.

Now, she’s at the forefront of the cancel rent movement. It is not that she thinks no one should pay rent. She believes those who can, should. But she argues it shouldn’t be up to the tenants to prove hardship, but the landlords instead.

“If rent is canceled, people will still pay their rent if they can, and I hope they do. I would encourage them to do so, and people that can’t are just not going to be evicted for it,” she said. "We’re making sure no evictions can happen because of rents that were owed during this particular pandemic period.”

This moment, she said, is a time to question why housing is a commodity and is run for profit.

“We think housing should be a right that is guaranteed to folks," she said. "I think the cancel rent movement is really about questioning: 'Why do you think landlords have a right to profit? Why should you be profiting off something people deeply need?' That’s the ideology that we are drawing on here.”