Pandemic charity: HCMC landlords cut rent for the poor

By Le Tuyet   August 7, 2021 | 05:00 pm PT
Pandemic charity: HCMC landlords cut rent for the poor
Workers living in an apartment complex in HCMC's Hoc Mon District line up to receive food provided by local authorities. Photo by VnExpress/Thu Thao.
Hundreds of landlords in Ho Chi Minh City have reduced rental fees for poor workers and invited those from vulnerable communities to stay for free amid the pandemic.

Le Thi Hai Duong, 52, has been doing checks on her six-room apartment for the past few days to accommodate those in need for free. Three years prior, she became the landlady of an apartment in Binh Thanh District after taking out a loan of over VND1 billion ($43,464) for construction. She rented the rooms, each spanning 25 square meters and equipped with existing furniture and appliances, to college students for VND2.5 million a month.

But when the pandemic hit, those students had to return to their hometowns. As Covid-19 social distancing kicked in, Duong thought she could help those in dire circumstances with a place to stay for free. So she contacted the Vietnamese Fatherland Front committee of Binh Thanh seeking help.

Vo Thi Phuong Uyen, its deputy chairwomam, said Duong's offer would be communicated to 20 wards in Ho Chi Minh City. Local authorities would then find poor workers and those who could not return to their hometowns to help. Wards would provide free Covid-19 tests for potential tenants and make sure they test negative before moving in.

"I will provide rice, noodles and other basic food items so people coming to stay can be self-isolated for at least another seven days," said Duong, adding that even though she has to pay around VND30 million each month to the bank, it is nothing compared to what others are facing during the pandemic.

Le Thi Hai Duong performs check-ups in an apartment room in HCMCs Binh Thanh District. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.

Le Thi Hai Duong checks an apartment in HCMC's Binh Thanh District. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong.

Around 20 kilometers from Duong's, Nguyen Thi Tien, 50, and her family in Hoc Mon District also gave up trying to return to their hometowns after their landlady said their rent would be wavered.

"However much I made I had to send it all back to my hometown to pay off debts, so I have no saving," said Tien, adding she had to take out several loans six years prior to treat her only daughter from a severe illness. After the girl recovered, the family moved to HCMC to make a living.

Tien sells fruits at Hoc Mon Market while her husband works in construction. Both lost their jobs when the pandemic hit, plunging their family into a precarious financial situation. Just last month, some of their friends invited them to return to An Giang to cut down on living expenses, but their apartment was locked down soon after, forcing them to stay put.

"There's always been silver linings. When we were quarantined for 14 days, we received a lot of food, and a philanthropist even gave each unemployed worker VND800,000," Tien said while pointing at stacks of rice, noodles and eggs in a corner of her kitchen.

When the lockdown was lifted, Tien's landlady Nguyen Thi Thanh announced that all rental fees for August would be wiped and convinced her tenants to stay. With the financial and sustenance burden lifted, Tien's family decided to hold out and wait for the storm to pass.

There are around 300 migrant workers living in Tien's apartment complex. Just last month, their landlady had cut their rental fees by half and distributed rice or noodles.

"I’ve been renting apartments for around 20 years, and have never seen workers facing such difficult conditions," Thanh said, adding prolonged social distancing in the city has forced many of her tenants to stay home without a job.

Many are migrants from faraway localities like Nghe An or Ha Tinh in the north central region, some a bit closer like the Mekong Delta's An Giang and Ca Mau. Thanh thought it would be too dangerous for them to return to their hometowns on motorbike so decided to cut their rent and convince them to stay.

"I used to have a hard life, so I know just a few hundred thousand dong could mean the world to those in need," she said, adding she would continue lowing the rent if the situation persists.

Pham Chi Tam, deputy chairman of the HCMC labor federation, said over 620 apartment owners across the city have agreed to cut down rental fees for over 34,000 tenants, totaling over VND5 billion.

Amid the Covid-19 social distancing order, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has requested localities to provide support for residents so they could stay put and not return to their hometowns spontaneously, risking new infections.

HCMC in particular has given out financial packages worth billions of dong to help its poor and vulnerable communities during the pandemic, while also providing them food and other necessities.

Vietnam has recorded 201,692 local Covid-19 cases ever since the fourth coronavirus wave hit the country in late April. HCMC has recorded 119,802 cases, the highest number of infections among all affected localities.

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