Housing industry heavyweights are banding together, calling on President Biden’s administration to let the Centers for Disease Control eviction ban lapse at the end of this month.
Twelve groups, including the National Association of Realtors, the National Apartment Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council, which represents large rental landlords, have co-authored a letter urging an end to CDC limits on evictions.
The CDC’s moratorium isn’t a blanket ban on evictions, but it allows tenants to raise a defense in court if they file form with their landlord that states they cannot pay the rent, have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and promise to make some partial payments. As such it has become very difficult for landlords to evict tenants who are behind on their rental payments.
The moratorium was first mandated in September when the pandemic was raging across the U.S. The CDC renewed the measure in April this year for another two months and it is now due to expire at the end of June.
Now, the industry coalition is calling for an end to the ban on evictions, saying that almost $50 billion provided in rental assistance by the Biden administration has help to bring many renters current. It added that the share of households making an annual income of $35,000 or less that have caught up on their rent has risen 11%, according to the latest Census Housing Pulse Survey.
The groups say that by lifting the CDC’s limits on evictions, this would be an “important catalyst” that would ensure rental checks are flowing to landlords again, allowing those people to pay their debt service and maintain the homes they provide.
Michael Flood, senior vice president of commercial and multifamily at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said the groups want to “see renters made whole.”
He added: “Not only are they now able to make rent payments, but there is rental assistance on the way. Even more importantly, there are jobs on the way.”
The U.S. economic situation has also improved significantly in recent months, the housing industry groups said. They point to an unemployment rate that fell to 5.8% in May, down from a high of 14.8% in April 2020.
Some industry groups, especially those on the side of landlords, have sought to topple the CDC’s ban on evictions through legal actions several times already. In May, it appeared as if those efforts had been successful, as a federal judge did actually overturn the ban. However, it was reinstated within a few hours following a Department of Justice emergency appeal to the D.C. circuit.
On the other side of the fence, housing advocates have warned that lifting the CDC eviction ban could put as many as 11 million Americans at risk of ending up homeless. They argue that this would not serve the interests of tenants or landlords, as most states are still working out how to distribute the almost $50 billion in rental assistance that has been earmarked for them.
Housing advocates also warn that any resumption of evictions would disproportionately affect lower-income households and minority groups.
For all of the efforts to get the ban lifted, some observers have questioned its effectiveness. A study by the Government Accountability Office in March found that the CDC eviction limits may have had little impact overall. It noted that the number of evictions has risen ever since the initial CARES Act eviction ban expired in July 2020. States that have mandated their own bans have seen eviction filings stay much lower than in states where renters are only protected by the CDC limits.
The GAO said this could be because renters do not understand how the CDC’s eviction limits work, or are unaware of them. It said the agency has taken “few steps” to promote awareness of the eviction moratorium and its requirements.