Eviction moratorium expiration looms; White House scrambling for solutions

The White House, racing against the clock with just a month left before a pandemic-related moratorium on evictions expires, hosted a virtual meeting Wednesday to hear authorities warn that millions of renters, and the landlords who depend on them, are in dire straits across the country.

The meeting comes one day after the Supreme Court, in what was seen as a partial win for landlords, ruled the Centers for Disease Control must have congressional authority to extend the moratorium.

Leaders from more than 50 cities were invited to the one-hour virtual session featuring housing officials as well as legal and academic authorities who shared ideas on best practices for preventing evictions.

As of June 7, nearly 3.2 million people nationwide said they are grappling with a looming eviction in the next two months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Mary McCormack, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, stressed the importance of eviction diversion programs where local judicial systems mandate out-of-court mediation efforts between landlords and renters.

The strategy, she says, is a “unicorn” solution for all those involved because tenants do not want to move out, landlords need to pay bills and courts are buried in backlogs of eviction cases.

Meanwhile, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta reiterated what she said in a letter last week to state courts urging them to enact anti-eviction diversion methods. 

She said the courts should require rental assistance applications be submitted prior to filing a case and that eviction proceedings should be placed on a slower track than other cases.

Princeton professor Matthew Desmond, who studies poverty as an investigator for the university’s Eviction Lab project, told attendees the nation was already headed toward an eviction crisis before the pandemic, which has exacerbated the threat.

Mr. Desmond said he sees the current situation as “an opportunity not to go back to normal because for so many renters around the country: normal is broken, normal is painful.”

“This is a chance to reinvent how we adjudicate and address the eviction crisis in a way that’s more fair, that works for tenants and property owners better than the status quo, in a way that clearly invests in home and families and communities with the recognition that without stable shelter, everything else falls apart,” he said.

The summit was part of the Biden administration’s attempt to prevent a wave of evictions following its decision to extend the moratorium.

Other steps include: accelerating emergency rental assistance, ensuring eviction notice requirements are followed and facilitating better communication among renters, landlords and officials. 

Congress greenlighted $25 billion in rent relief in December and an additional $21.5 billion in May.

The CDC extended the eviction moratorium for another 30 days last week after it was scheduled to expire on June 30.

Landlord groups had asked the high court to block the evictions moratorium after a three-judge panel refused to end the evictions ban earlier this month.

The moratorium prevents landlords from evicting tenants while the order is enforced, so landlords are unable to remove a renter who can’t pay rent.

It was first issued in September under former President Donald Trump, but the government has continued to renew it during the following eight months.

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