By JR Valrey
As the Covid pandemic’s shelter-in-place rages on indefinitely, it is important for us to hear how our community is coping with this tumultuous current financial period. Some media focus has already been put on the homeless population, who are increasingly struggling to survive, while some mainstream media focus has also been put on the renting population that is struggling to meet their financial obligations, due to mass layoffs and a severely flawed statewide unemployment agency. I haven’t seen any focus being placed on the small Black mom and pop landlords, who have been forced to weather this financial storm, while being starved by the national rent moratorium. Mom and pop landlords, are not the landlords responsible for gentrification like the banks, the corporate and non-profit landowners. They are the people who are trying to organize themselves out of the everyday rat race of poverty, and organize their lives, and finances to begin the process of creating generational wealth; which is important for Black people, in this racial, economic, capitalist caste system of the US.
Jaleel Hanif has been a family friend for decades, and I have always admired his financial acumen. A while ago we had a short discussion on social media discussing this matter that stuck with me, and as I reflected, I realized that the voice of Black mom and pop landlords was being neglected, at a time where Black businesses and the economic infrastructure is literally being destroyed, before our very eyes. We must ask the question, if we fail to support our Black landlords and Black business owners, where will we have the ability to live, work, and hang out? Murder, terrorism, and discrimination has been normalized in the US, against Black people, we can not depend on our oppressor, the government to treat us fairly. We must do for ourselves, and support those that are moving in that direction. We must remember, that no matter what the mainstream media tells us about the U.S. being a post racial society, the Black homeless population, the Black people being murdered by police wantonly, and the Black children locally, who can’t return to school because their schools don’t have proper ventilation, would all beg to differ. Check out Jaleel Hanif, who works as a longshoreman, as we discuss this seldom broached topic.
JR Valrey: Can you explain the road to how you became a property owner? What made you take that direction in life?
Jaleel Hanif: My road to being a property owner took place fairly young, in my late 20’s. I’ve always had dreams to be successful, as a youngster growing up, but never quite knew how to go about financially growing, from struggling day to day to becoming financially free. So once I was able to save up enough for a down payment on a piece of property, I was faced with options which were to buy a new car and more trendy clothes, or go buy a house. Well so many times in the past I splurged on cars, sound systems, clothes etc as so many of my peers did, but this one time I decided to put my money towards property. At first, I was looking to buy a nice home until I read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki, which sparked my interest in investment property. Simultaneously I ran into a real estate agent, who pointed me in the direction of multi units. After a few months of searching I came across a multi unit complex, in pre-foreclosure. The timing was right, and the owner who happened to be a friend of mine’s mother helped facilitate the sale, to me, before the bank came and took it over.
JR Valrey: How has the road been as a mom and pop landlord up until COVID?
Jaleel Hanif: Until Covid hit, being a landlord offered a pathway to generational wealth. Being able to qualify for investment property mortgages was a huge achievement for me. Early on, I was introduced to Oakland Housing Authority representatives, which led me to renting a number of my units to Section 8 tenants. Because of the section 8 program, I’ve been able to stay afloat during the pandemic without going completely bankrupt. I think the best route to owning property in urban areas, is programs like section 8, which helps landlords and tenants.
JR Valrey: What happened to you and your property when the federal government implemented the federal moratorium?
Jaleel Hanif: When the government implemented the rent moratorium, I had major concerns with what would happen if my renters stopped paying rent. As a landlord, the rent moratorium does nothing to help landlords. Bad renters who have always paid late or were delinquent before the COVID moratorium went into place, now have the luxury and the safety-net to stop paying rent all together claiming covid hardships.
JR Valrey: Without rental compensation coming in, how have you been meeting your financial obligations?
Jaleel Hanif: Without rental compensation coming in, I have depended on savings to carry my property mortgage, taxes, waste management, east bay mud (water) and monthly maintenance bills. It’s been going on for a year now, with no relief in sight for landlords to be compensated for our losses, which has led to many of us going bankrupt, or being forced with the possibility of foreclosures and handing the property back to the bank.
JR Valrey: Do you think that there should be a bailout for mom and pop landlords like yourself, why or why not?
Jaleel Hanif: While the rent moratorium helps renters who are truly affected by covid related issues, it does nothing for the small mom and pop owners being drained financially. Funds allocated to help renters, go directly into the hands of renters, and many of those renters collect the funds without paying anything towards past due rent. There needs to be a bailout for mom and pop landlords where funds go directly to our bank accounts, so we can pay the banks and lending institutions.
JR Valrey: What is going to happen when the federal moratorium is lifted? What is your next move? Why?
Jaleel Hanif: When the federal moratorium lifts, landlords will have no choice but to evict tenants who’ve been staying rent free, throughout the pandemic. What will be even worse for landlords, is not only costs of eviction, but the unlikelihood of being able to recoup rent from tenants who are already stretched thin. It won’t be feasible, in most cases. Landlords will be left with months of unpaid rent, evictions, and with empty units. The only way to mitigate this loss is for the government to step in, and save small mom and pop landlords.
JR Valrey: From a landlord point of view, what should be done about the homeless situation in the Bay Area?
Jaleel Hanif: The homeless situation is so horrible in many parts of the Bay Area due to local laws granting homeless encampments amnesty, which is a beacon for more homeless to move to the Bay Area. The incentive for the homeless to move to the Bay Area is here, the best thing we can do is set up government subsidies and voucher programs, where the government pays landlords directly, to house homeless in our units. Government programs similar to section 8 already utilizes this approach. By expanding these programs, it will not only help house the homeless, it will also help small mom and pop owners, and provide a successful pathway for local entrepreneurs to become landlords themselves.
JR Valrey: Is there anything else that you think we should know about this situation?
Jaleel Hanif: Home ownership is a classic cornerstone of achieving the American dream. For small mom and pop landlords to not only own property, but to also become responsible landlords, provides a path to generational wealth that so many Black Americans strive to achieve. Rent moratoriums have largely impacted low income renters, thus directly impacting Black landowners in a negative way. If we are to fix the wealth gap, and help Americans through this covid pandemic, we must bailout mom and pop landlords.