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The Biden administration last week extended a nationwide ban on evictions to help millions of Americans struggling to pay rent because of the coronavirus pandemic to stay in their homes, at least temporarily.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first imposed the moratorium last September in order to prevent a wave of evictions it said would force people into congregate settings, like homeless shelters, where the risk of catching or spreading the virus is extremely high. The latest extension, which will keep the ban in place until July 31, came days before the ban was set to expire. The CDC said the order is “intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.” A number of states and cities issued their own eviction bans over the course of pandemic. Some have expired, others remain in effect.
Researchers have credited the eviction ban for helping limit the economic damage experienced by vulnerable families during the worst days of the pandemic. There is also some evidence that allowing people to stay in their homes did in fact reduce the number of overall COVID-19 infections and ultimately saved lives.
Why there’s debate
Critics of the eviction moratorium say it effectively transfers housing costs from individual renters to property owners. They argue that, while that may have made sense when community spread was at its peak, vaccines have made it so evictions no longer pose a threat to public health. Real estate associations and landlord groups have also attacked the ban, claiming it will force many smaller landlords to go bankrupt if they have to go any longer without collecting money from their tenants.
Advocates for keeping and even extending the ban say it’s still needed to hold off a nationwide wave of evictions, which they say would disproportionately affect the very people who have struggled the most throughout the pandemic. In early June, roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. said they were facing eviction, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Congress designated nearly $47 billion to help Americans pay off their rental debt, but only a small fraction of that money has been allocated. Supporters say keeping the ban in place will buy more time for those funds to get to the people who need it.
Many progressives argue that a moratorium on evictions on its own isn’t enough. They say new laws are needed to protect renters from housing instability long after the pandemic has subsided. “They need a long-term solution, not another Band-Aid,” one housing researcher said.
The Supreme Court has been asked to rule on a lawsuit filed by landlords arguing that the CDC never had the authority to issue the moratorium in the first place. It’s unclear whether the court will take up the case, with the ban scheduled to end in just a few weeks.
The pandemic is waning, but the economic effects still linger
“The emergency created by COVID-19 isn’t over.” — David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
The ban is no longer needed to keep the virus under control
“During the pandemic, allowing people to stay in their homes has saved lives. … As the pandemic wanes, however, so does the justification for asking landlords to bear the cost of unpaid rent.” — Editorial, New York Times
Landlords can’t afford to stay in business without rental income
“Our left-wing friends talk about landlords as though they were all twirling their mustaches like Snidely Whiplash when not rolling in piles of gold ducats like Scrooge McDuck. In reality, many landlords are small businesses or individuals, some of whom have low incomes. Low-income landlords tend to derive a greater share of their household incomes from rent than do higher-income landlords, meaning that eviction moratoria do not prevent economic hardship but merely transfer it from one party to another.” — Editorial, National Review
A wave of evictions would harm the most vulnerable Americans
“The same communities that faced the highest exposure to COVID-19 — such as essential workers working for low wages — now face an epidemic of evictions, which are deeply tied to higher suicide rates, heart disease and hypertension. … These evictions also will increase racial health inequities.” — Tracy Delaney and Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, CalMatters
The eviction moratorium is illegal
“Will the government ever have to answer for acting unlawfully? Or do politicians, in this pen-and-phone era, not care if they’ve wandered so far out on a legal limb that they’re standing on air?” — Editorial, Wall Street Journal
Governments need more time to distribute rental assistance funds
“We’ve avoided some of the worst outcomes so far, but the crisis is not over. If the Biden administration allows the federal eviction moratorium to expire before states and localities can distribute aid to households in need, millions of households would be at immediate risk of housing instability and, in worst case, homelessness.” — Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition to New York Times
The eviction ban is creating instability in the economy
“Leases are contracts; the renter agrees to pay money, the property owner provides a safe dwelling for a limited time. [Renter protections] undermined that economic relationship to create new instability for being a landlord of a few units.” — Editorial, Seattle Times
Renters need permanent protections that go further than an eviction ban
“We are witnessing in real time how homelessness happens — and for whom. A return to ‘status quo’ should not be an option; the status quo creates poverty and racial disparities. Instead, we must enact public policies that strengthen and support communities that suffer the greatest harms and burdens.” — Kevin Lindamood and S. Todd Yeary, Baltimore Sun
Programs that allow people to stay in their homes are cheaper in the long run
“Every dollar we don’t spend protecting tenants and keeping them in their home now, we’ll be paying for it through our spending on homelessness for years to come.” — Tenants Together legislative director Shanti Singh to Curbed
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