Letter From AAM President Matt Lester
April 14, 2020
I hope you and your family remain safe and healthy in the face of the current crisis.
These are incredibly challenging, unprecedented times in the apartment industry, as they are for all Americans. Every apartment owner in Michigan is united in fighting this common, invisible enemy as never before.
Together, we face a once in a lifetime crisis which makes it difficult to know how best to advocate on behalf of all owners, especially because there are no two apartment owners who face the exact same situation. In light of this challenge, I have spent time with Forrest Wall, Karlene Lehman and various past presidents of the association discussing where there is common ground so that we can work together to address these problems and speak with a single voice focused on realistic goals.
To that end, our efforts are currently focused on two key points:
- It is important that our elected leaders stand with us and communicate support of the proposition that residents are still responsible for paying their rent while the eviction moratorium is in effect, or if a resident cannot pay his or her rent, that he or she receive sufficient rental assistance as opposed to shifting the burden entirely to landlords.
- The potential deployment by the government of additional renter assistance is crucial for market rate residents adversely affected by the crisis if the recent federal stimulus package, or other programs in place or to be contemplated by Congress, prove to be insufficient.
I remain troubled by the silent, or sometimes not so silent, message that tells tenants: don’t pay your rent. No one would ever suggest a Michigan resident would go into a grocery store and load their cart with food, then not pay anything at the check-out line. Similarly, no one should suggest a renter not pay their rent, especially at a time when the roof over their head under a shelter in place order is so incredibly important.
As landlords, we have a responsibility to be creative and flexible, but we should not carry the burden alone – from my vantage point, as an industry, apartment owners are going above and beyond in the face of a devastating pandemic that has left our state, for all practical purposes, shut down.
Further, I believe residential landlords deserve special recognition for the essential workers in our industry who are a few steps removed from the front-line health care workers when they enter an apartment home to complete a work order – there are literally thousands of these important heroes working through-out Michigan every day.
On the policy front, Forest Wall and Karlene Lehman continue to do excellent work to identify all available federal or state funds for this rental assistance effort, and we have suggested a program framework whereby tenants receive the assistance they need and property owners could receive direct payments from the state for residents who are financially impacted by COVID-19 and otherwise not adequately protected by other programs currently in place.
These are the measures that AAM is taking on all of our behalf, but keep in mind that this is largely a self-help environment – having said that, if you are in need of further assistance, then do not hesitate to reach out to Forrest Wall or others within the organization, or to consult the AAM resource page with CDC or other information: https://www.apartments.org/covid-19-resources.php
Although this crisis continues to cause uncertainty and threatens our interests, I am proud of the way our industry has responded to the challenge and am uplifted by the essential role our rental housing plays in further fulfilling the basic human need of shelter.
In times like this, there is no place like home – we should be proud of what we do and you should know that the AAM is here for you.
Very respectfully yours,