About 30 million could be evicted in the coming months, far more than the 2008 crisis, unless legislators take action.
A federal judge has temporarily stayed an order that found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) exceeded its authority when it imposed a federal eviction moratorium to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The stay, issued late on Wednesday by a federal judge in Washington, DC, came after the Justice Department filed an emergency appeal in the case. The administrative stay means there will be no immediate effect on the ban, which was extended in March to go through the end of June.
“Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone,” Brian Boynton, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement.
US District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, DC, said issuing the stay was not based on the merits of the Justice Department’s argument but instead is meant to give the court time to consider the motion and any potential opposition.
Opponents of the moratorium, including the National Association of Realtors, welcomed the judge’s initial ruling and said the solution was rental assistance, not a ban on evictions.
The eviction ban, initially put in place last year, provides protection for renters out of concern that having families lose their homes and move into shelters or share crowded conditions with relatives or friends during the pandemic would further spread the highly contagious virus.
Proponents of the ban argue it is necessary since the pandemic is still a threat and so many people are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Nearly four million people in the US said they faced eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.
Nationwide data on eviction proceedings has been inconsistent according to researchers at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, but a recent study suggested more than 1.5 million evictions were prevented in 2020 by government bans.
Eviction moratoria prevented 1.55 million evictions in 2020, a finding that's published in @SociusJournal today.
This raises the question – why couldn't we prevent not only 1.55 million, but every eviction that happens every year? pic.twitter.com/hhjVoyBzAq
— emily honda lemmerman (@e_lemmerman) April 28, 2021
Judge Friedrich had said on Wednesday the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, blocked the CDC’s moratorium.
The National Association of Realtors welcomed the judge’s decision, saying a better solution would be to help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills.
“With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban,” the group said.
As part of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed earlier this year, the US Congress provided $30bn in rental and housing assistance for people at risk of eviction or losing their homes.
Friedrich’s initial decision, when it takes effect, would provide relief for landlords struggling with delinquent tenants and vacancies. The moratorium had been scheduled to lapse on June 30.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request by the Reuters news service for comment.
At least 43 states and Washington, DC, have imposed their own temporary halts on residential or business evictions during the COVID-19 crisis, though the protections are far from uniform.
A separate eviction and foreclosure moratorium for federally financed housing from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development expires on June 30.
The CDC moratorium was issued last September, during former President Donald Trump’s administration, and had been extended three times, most recently in March under President Joe Biden’s administration.