Lansing Tenants Union protest at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s residence, May 1, 2020 |Audrey Matusz
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday extended a national moratorium on evictions for another month, offering what federal officials say will be a final respite while they scramble to beef up other help for renters that could mitigate a wave of evictions once the legal protection does expire.
The added month of eviction relief comes after housing advocates have expressed concerns about the ramifications for renters if that moratorium by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expired on June 30.
More than 10 million adult renters were behind on rent payments as of early June, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.
The figure of those behind on rent payments encompasses 14% of adult renters in the U.S., and has barely changed since March, according to housing experts from the CBPP. Renters of color and those with children are most likely to be struggling with rent payments.
The federal protection against eviction now will remain in place through July 31. But the moratorium still faces a looming legal threat in the U.S. Supreme Court, where a group of Alabama real estate agents have asked the justices to declare that the CDC does not have the power to block evictions.
During what CDC officials say will be the final extension of the federal eviction moratorium, the Biden administration officials will be seeking to better connect struggling renters with access to assistance programs, which in some states like Pennsylvania have been slow to distribute emergency rental aid.
Among the new “all-hands-on-deck” efforts announced by the White House were proposals to:
- Raise awareness of emergency rental assistance money;
- Encourage state courts to adopt anti-eviction diversion practices;
- Provide clarity for states and localities that they can use federal housing relief money not only to help renters catch up on payments, but also to administer anti-eviction programs;
- Convene a summit with housing advocates and officials from 50 cities to develop strategies to better divert evictions.
Housing advocates praised the CDC’s extension on Thursday, saying that eviction filings are likely to be highest in areas with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, raising both housing and public health risks.
But those advocates also cautioned that the moratorium is a short-term solution, and one that does little to mitigate challenges that renters faced in accessing affordable housing prior to the pandemic.
“For now, extending the eviction moratorium will protect the millions of people behind on rent,” Alicia Mazzara, a senior research analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told reporters. “But many of these renters faced a similar deadline only months ago, and they’ll face this deadline again at the end of next month. They need a long-term solution, not another Band-aid.”
Protections for renters and homeowners were enacted last year as businesses shuttered, and unemployment numbers began to spike. Eventually, 43 states and the federal government halted evictions on a temporary basis, though many of those state-level protections have since expired, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Congress included a moratorium on evictions in the CARES pandemic relief bill passed in March 2020, which expired in late July. As that federal protection expired along with eviction moratoriums in a number of states, the CDC then issued its own moratorium in September.
That eviction pause ran through December and was extended through January, March, June, and now through July.
Even as the federal moratorium has been in place, eviction filings have continued in states like Arizona, where those actions are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Arizona Mirror. The moratorium did block renters from being locked out and removed from their residence if a judge sides with the landlord. In Kansas, homeless shelters saw an uptick in need just days after officials lifted a statewide ban on evictions, according to the Kansas Reflector.
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