President Biden’s administration has heeded advice from housing advocates and are once again extending a federal moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Set to expire on Wednesday, the moratorium is now extended to the end of June. It is a moratorium first initiated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September that barred evicting tenants for their inability to pay rent using a 1944 public health law. Congress extended that order in December, and Biden had renewed it again through the end of March.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to the nation’s public health,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained in a statement. “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.”
The extension will help 18.4% of all tenants that surveys show owe back rent. It will also significantly impact Black tenants.
In the survey from the Census Bureau’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12 million renters were behind on rent in the middle of March. Tenants of color were also shown to be disproportionately at risk. 24% of Black renters were behind on rent, the survey estimated. A different survey estimated up to 34% of Black tenants owed rent that was past due.
Some housing advocates remain hopeful Biden will do more than just extending the moratorium. Some landlords have successfully gone around the moratorium which is “flawed.”
“It’s disappointing that the administration didn’t act on the clear evidence and need to also strengthen the order to address the flaws that undermine its public health purpose,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel in response.
Advocates are also concerned about what happens once the federal ban is lifted. The $45 billion in rental assistance from Congress has been slow to reach landlords and tenants hoping to pay off back rent and delayed mortgage payments. Even then, once the federal ban is lifted, struggling tenants will be expected to pay their entire rent owed or set up some sort of payment plan with their landlord.