Just days after a previous moratorium expired, the Centers for Disease Control has issued a new ban on evictions that it said will last for 60 days until October 3.
The CDC’s original eviction ban expired July 31, raising fears that potentially thousands of tenants would be kicked out of their homes.
The new moratorium isn’t quite as extensive, and will only apply to counties where COVID-19 has reached “heightened levels of community transmission”. But with the Delta variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the country, it should ensure most renters are covered. Indeed, President Joe Biden said Tuesday he expects around 90% of U.S. renters will be safe from eviction for the duration of the ban.
It’s said that more than 11 million Americans are currently behind on their rental payments. The CDC justifies its ban by saying research has found that evictions lead to a spike in virus cases and related deaths.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told CNBC on hearing of the renewed ban. “President Biden’s bold action and leadership in this moment of crisis will save lives and immeasurable suffering.”
Not everyone supported an extended ban, though. Landlord groups and housing groups have increasingly campaigned against it, saying that with more people being vaccinated it’s time to ease the pressure on housing providers who still have to bear the costs of rental homes, including repairs and mortgage repayments.
There were several legal challenges to the previous ban. For example, the Alabama and Georgia associations of Realtors bought a lawsuit challenging the CDC’s authority to impose the ban. The judge in that case agreed the CDC had overstepped its authority, but refused to outlaw the ban before hearing a government appeal, which remains pending.
Another challenge in June resulted in a majority of judges at the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing that the CDC had exceeded its authority in mandating the ban. Four of the justices called for an immediate end to the ban, but it was ultimately agreed the ban could stay in place until its July 31 deadline to allow for an orderly transition and time to distribute rental assistance from Congress. The Supreme Court further ruled the eviction ban could only be extended again through policy legislation.
It’s not clear how the Supreme Court will respond to the new ban, but states will at least get more time to allocate the $45 billion in rental assistance granted by Congress. So far, just $3 billion has reached the hands of actual housing providers, who desperately need it amid a painfully slow rollout.
In the wake of the new CDC moratorium, the National Association of Realtors, which has been opposed to the ban, called upon state agencies to speed up their distribution of rental assistance. NAR President Charlie Oppler noted in a press statement that around half of all housing providers are “mom-and-pop operators” and said these are unable to pay their own bills or maintain their properties without rental income.
The NAR has advocated for rental assistance to be paid directly to housing providers to cover rent and utility costs during the pandemic, stating that they only see eviction as the last resort when it comes to non-payment of rent.
“Rental assistance is now available in every state to cover up to a year-and-a-half of back and future bills,” Oppler said. “It’s time to put our full efforts behind its deployment so that the housing market can return to its former, healthy function.”