The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be moving to extend the national eviction moratorium that has been in effect since September and is now scheduled to expire at the end of March.
The CDC has sent a proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory review, which experts say indicates that the health agency is taking steps to keep the protection in place as coronavirus cases surge in many states and millions of Americans remain behind on their rent.
“It’s not a guarantee, but the submission to OMB means that it is likely that the administration will extend the CDC order on evictions,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project.
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Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, agreed, saying it was “very likely” the ban will be extended before it lapses in nine days.
CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said a decision to extend the moratorium has not been made. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Landlord groups have opposed the eviction ban, saying the pandemic has gone on for more than a year now and that they cannot continue housing tenants for free and allowing them to rack up arrears.
“Short-term policies like eviction moratoria leave renters accruing insurmountable debt and jeopardize the ability for rental housing providers to provide safe, affordable housing,” said Bob Pinnegar, president of the National Apartment Association.
Housing advocates point out that Congress has now allocated more than $45 billion in rental assistance to address those arrears, and say it would be a waste of that money to allow evictions to proceed before it reaches renters and their landlords.
“President Biden must extend the moratorium until the emergency rental assistance funds are expended,” Yentel said.
Recent research has found that evictions have led to as many as 400,000 additional coronavirus cases during the pandemic because many displaced people double up with family members or friends or are forced to turn to crowded shelters.
“Increased evictions lead to increased spread of, and potentially deaths from, Covid-19,” Yentel said.
Calls to improve the CDC’s eviction ban
Although the CDC has barred most evictions amid the public health crisis, many landlords are pushing out their tenants anyway.
Since the CDC ban took effect, Jim Baker, executive director of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, has counted close to 50,000 new eviction cases filed by corporate landlords in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas alone.
During the same period, The Eviction Lab at Princeton University has identified more than 180,000 evictions in the five states and 19 cities that it tracks.
Yet another report found that the CDC ban stopped fewer than 10% of eviction cases in Harris County, Texas, where most of Houston is located.
Housing experts say that to truly stop evictions during the public health crisis, renters shouldn’t have to apply for the protection; rather, all steps of an eviction should be stayed in the courts, and clear penalties for landlords who violate the law need to be established.
Matthew Turner is one of the millions of Americans struggling to pay his rent in the pandemic.
In October, he was laid off from his job as a consultant. He and his husband, Gerard, have used up all of their savings and sold their furniture, including their bed, to stay in their home over the last few months. They’re currently sleeping on the floor in their two-bedroom apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina.
They’re now out of options and won’t be able to come up with April’s rent. If they’re forced to leave, Turner says they’ll have to sleep in his van.
He hopes the CDC ban is extended, but he says it also needs to be improved. Over the last few months, he’s witnessed many of his neighbors get evicted despite the law.
“I see people leaving every day, bringing their furniture and putting it into the dump,” Turner, 48, said. “It just doesn’t reach people here. I don’t feel safe at all.”