The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Monday extended its rental eviction moratorium until June 30. The original order was published last Sept. 4 and was extended through March 31, so this extension comes two days before it was to expire.
While millions more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 each day, the threat and spread of the deadly virus continues, and forcing people from their homes would only make it worse, the CDC says.
The agency said in its announcement today: "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."
And here's how the CDC describes its ban: "This means that a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue an eviction or a possessory action cannot evict for nonpayment of rent any covered person from any residential property in any U.S. state or U.S. territory where the order applies."
Mixed views on the impact of the ban
The U.S. Census Bureau reported last week that more than 8 million Americans are behind on their rent, and housing rights advocates have been vocal supporters of the ban.
The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill signed recently by President Joe Biden contains billions of dollars for emergency rental assistance that still needs to make its way to renters and their landlords, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) says in a statement.
"Evictions risk lives, drive families deeper into poverty, and strain our already overstretched public health systems. When our collective health depends on an ability to stay in our homes, we all have a stake in ensuring that tens of millions of renters do not lose theirs," the NLIHC statement said, calling on the federal government to do more to ensure the ban actually is effective.
Where the ban is effectively enforced, it hits smaller investors in rental properties, like mom-and-pop landlords, especially hard, and there remains a lot of confusion over what the ban actually does. Millionacres' Aly Yale details that issue in an article last week titled "The Biggest Problem With the Eviction Moratorium: Lack of Awareness."
The Millionacres bottom line: Things may be getting better -- maybe
NPR points out in its coverage of the ban's extension today that relief money is now beginning to flow through the system, beginning with application portals that have recently opened.
"And now, with the economy improving, fewer people say they owe back rent. A census survey from March 3 to March 15 finds that 1.2 million fewer households report being behind on their rent, compared to the month before," that article says.
Meanwhile, the CDC ban has been challenged in court, where federal judges in Ohio, Texas, and Tennessee have ruled against it. The U.S. Justice Department has already said it will appeal the Texas ruling, and the enforcement varies from place to place.
For instance, here's an article from a Mansfield, Ohio, newspaper about how a magistrate there would allow evictions to proceed despite the ban. But, it should be noted, that decision was based on the whole thing being moot when the ban expired on March 31.
Now it's not.
It's also worth noting that similar bans exist on foreclosures and subsequent evictions involving federally backed mortgages, but that involves fewer properties, while still substantial, and has generated less hue and cry than the rental eviction ban.
The patchwork enforcement of the ban can be expected to continue, continuing the uncertainty landlords and tenants in these unfortunate circumstances face while a pandemic recovery moves the country toward a new normal, whatever that might look like.