Yes, the CDC will kick the eviction crisis can down the road

Last weekend, I asked whether President Biden planned to extend the ongoing federal eviction moratorium that was scheduled to expire today. There was obviously a lot riding on that decision, both for renters and landlords around the nation. But with the vaccination rate rising rapidly and many businesses being allowed to reopen, did we really need to keep the moratorium going? That answer came pretty quickly. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has already announced yet another extension, though it’s not nearly as long as the one that many public housing advocates had been lobbying for. (CDC.gov)

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has signed an extension to the eviction moratorium further preventing the eviction of tenants who are unable to make rental payments. The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021 is now extended through June 30, 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health. Keeping people in their homes and out of crowded or congregate settings — like homeless shelters — by preventing evictions is a key step in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

You can download and read the full order here from the CDC website, but it’s pretty much the same as the previous ones. The only reason the CDC is involved in the decision is that they’re claiming that evictions could send people into homeless shelters or relatives’ homes where the disease could spread more rapidly due to the crowded conditions.

Activists had been pushing the Biden administration to extend the moratorium until the end of the year, but they only wound up getting another ninety days out of the deal. Preemptively pushing it out until the end of 2021 would have been a drastic level of overkill. The vaccinations should be finished (as much as they’re going to be, anyway) long before then and people should be back to work.

What’s truly curious is how many people remain far behind on their rent after the government has flushed so much money into rent relief. In the stimulus passed in December, $25 billion was poured into rent relief with another $27 billion being added in the COVID relief bill that the Democrats just rammed through. As of January, Moody’s estimated that the nation’s renters owed a combined $57 billion in back rent. And yet somehow the money isn’t making it into the hands of the landlords in many cases.

There have also been court challenges brought by landlord groups against the CDC’s authority to even issue such a moratorium in the first place. A court in Texas already ruled the ban unconstitutional, though the Justice Department is currently appealing that ruling. But the end result is that an increasing number of smaller landlords with few rental units are going under after not receiving any rental payments for more than a year.

If the Biden administration has a long-term plan for how to deal with this, particularly after the moratorium finally ends, we need to hear what it is. As things stand, if the ban truly ends on June 30th, there are either going to be a massive number of renters being kicked out of their apartments or a huge number of landlords who will be forced to lose their properties to larger real estate development firms or banks. Neither outcome looks pretty.