The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have placed a nationwide ban on most evictions through the end of the year “to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”
Under the temporary ban, landlords cannot evict qualifying renters who certify that they are making their “best efforts” to keep up with rent, but are unable to pay in full because of COVID-related financial hardship.
It’s by far the most sweeping move yet to try to head off a looming wave of evictions of people who have lost their jobs or taken a major blow to their income because of the pandemic. Housing advocates and landlord groups both have been warning that millions of people could soon be put out of their homes through eviction if Congress does not do more to help renters and landlords and reinstate expanded unemployment benefits.
“My reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief,” says Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It’s a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic.”
That said, she adds that while a move like this is long overdue, “It is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”
Landlords, too, are worried about falling off a cliff. Doug Bibby is the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council. He says, “We are disappointed that the administration has chosen to enact a federal eviction moratorium without the existence of dedicated, long-term funding for rental and unemployment assistance.”
“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Bibby said. He’s calling for a myriad of financial assistance measures to help property owners.
“We’re heading towards a housing crisis. We have renters facing enormous financial hardships at the same time that costs and uncertainty have increased for housing providers,” said Paula Cino of the National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents landlords, apartment managers, and developers.
About 80% of renters have been able to keep up with rent so far, according to a weekly survey from the Census Bureau, though there are significant racial disparities; Black and Latino renters are about twice as likely as White and Asian renters to be behind. More than 40% of renters said they had little to no confidence that they would be able to make next month’s rent, and many reported borrowing money from family or friends to get by. A growing number of people are also using credit cards to pay rent.
Evictions for reasons other than nonpayment of rent will be allowed. The government says it will impose criminal penalties on landlords who violate the ban.