The blog of the Urban Institute
December 11, 2020

Extending the CDC Eviction Moratorium Would Keep Families Housed and Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

December 11, 2020

In fewer than 30 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) national eviction moratorium will expire. The Federal Housing Finance Agency has already extended the moratorium on federally backed mortgages in single family homes through January 2021, but this one covers only a small share of renters living in single-family homes with federally backed mortgages. Although rental relief is the only real way to ensure recovery for all, strengthening the national eviction moratorium will be critical to keeping families safe from the coronavirus while Congress hammers out the details of a federal stimulus package.

An extension would provide much-needed continuity and protections during the transition of the executive branch. If President Trump and Congress do not extend the moratorium before the year ends, it will need to be a top priority for the new administration on their first day in office if they want to keep families housed and safe.

Mass evictions could lead to widespread instability

In September, the CDC recognized the threat that evictions pose to families’ health and took a critical step by passing a federal eviction moratorium for tenants facing financial hardship. But conditions have only worsened since then. Last month, a third of Americans said they would likely face foreclosure or eviction in the next few months. And because of long-standing systemic barriers that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, the financial impacts have been even worse for people of color.

With expanded unemployment and other supports expiring at the end of the year and unemployment numbers on the rise again, families will experience increased financial insecurity that will push them closer to the edge of housing insecurity. Even if Congress passes a federal deal with rental assistance, renters with rental debt will still be at risk for eviction for months as relief is distributed.

Policymakers have many tools at their disposal to support renters

Despite the current federal moratorium, families are still falling through the cracks. Varying interpretations and the weakening of the provisions by the CDC (PDF) have led to tens of thousands of eviction filings since the order was first issued. In addition to extending the moratorium until federal rent relief can be distributed, policymakers can consider taking the following actions to keep families housed.

  •  Stop all eviction proceedings and new filings, not just for pandemic-related evictions.
  • Ensure tenants are not evicted over small sums.
  • Shift burden of declaration from tenants to landlords and courts.
  • Notify tenants of their rights and available rent relief.
  • Restrict late fees on rent payments.
  • Provide clear guidance for local implementation, including guidance for how to mediate and negotiate with landlords.
  • Enforce the eviction moratorium, and hold landlords and courts accountable if they violate it.
  • Require landlords with federally back mortgages to accept housing assistance as a form of rent payment.

The nation is facing unprecedented economic destruction, and a national moratorium is just a stopgap for tenants who have been facing financial insecurity for months without support. Federal rental relief is not only crucial for renters but also for landlords and the housing market as a whole. The economic slowdown is disproportionally affecting people of color and those with lower incomes, and landlords are no exception. Black and Hispanic landlords reported greater difficulties paying their mortgages compared with white landlords, and almost half of lower-income landlords reported increased pressure to sell their properties. These landlords are a critical source of accessible housing and have supported their tenants more than white landlords during the crisis. Losing their properties to larger companies could significantly affect the affordable housing stock for years to come.

The pandemic, first and foremost, is a health crisis. We’ve long been aware of the lasting economic and health effects associated with evictions, but we are just now understanding the deadly impact they’ve had during the past several months. This is especially true for Black and Hispanic Americans who are dying at disproportionately high rates and who have faced the largest economic effects. As local governments renew their calls for residents to stay home, it is more important than ever that federal eviction protections are strengthened to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Maricopa County constable Darlene Martinez inspects an apartment while serving an eviction order on September 30, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. Thousands of court-ordered evictions continue nationwide despite a CDC moratorium for renters impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Although state and county officials say they have tried to educate the public on the protections, many renters remain unaware and fail to complete the necessary forms to remain in their homes. In many cases, landlords have worked out more flexible payment plans with vulnerable tenants, although these temporary solutions have become fraught as the pandemic drags on. With millions of Americans still unemployed due to the pandemic, federal rental assistance proposals remain gridlocked in Congress. The expiry of the CDC moratorium at year's end looms large, as renters and landlord face a potential tsunami of evictions and foreclosures nationwide. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

SHARE THIS PAGE

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.