If you believe that the true test of a civilization is how it cares for its most vulnerable members, now is the time to act.
Unlike the crash of 2008 or the carnage of 9/11, the Coronavirus pandemic will continue to ravish the globe for months to come. It has forced us all, regardless of age, income, race or religion to modify our lives in a drastic way.
But the burden will be much greater for some than for others. Over 75 percent of U.S. workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Those on the frontline of this crisis- nurses, EMTs, the essential employees working long hours stocking our grocery stores– often not only have to worry about contracting the virus, but also about keeping a roof over their heads. Millions more who lost their jobs have nowhere else to turn.
How we care for them will not only define us, it will also determine how quickly we recover once we come out on the other side.
More than a week ago, Senator Rick Scott called on all governors to implement a moratorium on rents, mortgages, fees, and utilities. I couldn’t agree more.
For us in the housing business who are still able to operate, it is our duty to give back. We need to approach our recovery the same way we are approaching the eradication of this virus – by making tough sacrifices to ensure the viability of our communities as we move forward.
Making those sacrifices will look different for everyone. At AHS Residential, we are postponing investments and freezing projects to ensure that our residents can keep their homes and our workers their salaries. We will not evict residents and are working with those who can’t make rent to delay payments for 90 days.
For many, a few months of breathing room can mean the difference between staying in their homes or becoming homeless.
I believe that the housing industry as a whole is willing and able to do its part. But we cannot and should not bear this cost alone.
The government needs to work hand in hand with private industry the way it has in past crises and wars. That means federal renters assistance programs for renters, and forbearance on mortgages and tax relief for property owners–aid that is desperately needed to absorb the impact of this crisis. Only by working together to share the burden can we protect the most vulnerable from the financial shockwave that is coming.
We must unite industry, banks, mortgage agencies, and state and federal government efforts so that those most affected by this pandemic can focus on what really matters and not worry about having a roof over their heads.
This is indeed our biggest test, but with crisis comes great opportunity and ours lies in being able to pull our collective resources together to ensure that we can all come out of this stronger than before. This is one test we must not fail.
Ernesto Lopes is the president and CEO of AHS Residential and a graduate of the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He has more than 30 years of experience in construction and real estate development, including leading high profile projects in Latin America, Europe and the United States.