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As Federal Mortarium Comes to an End, Tenants in the USA Stare at Possible Evictions

Thousands of tenants are at risk of losing shelter as Federal moratorium on residential evictions expired on July 31, 2021

As the nationwide moratorium on residential evictions expired on July 31, 2021, hundreds of thousands of tenants are at risk of losing shelter, while tens of billions in federal funding intended to pay their back rent sit untapped. The last-minute effort by the Biden administration to win an extension has failed.

After the expiration landlords in many parts of the country can officially begin removing people from their homes. Even though a staggering 3 million people have expressed the likelihood to be evicted “within the next two months,” according to a Census survey from early July, and nearly 5 million renters said they won’t be able to pay August rent, that doesn’t mean they will be evicted immediately.

The expiration was a setback for President Biden, whose team has for months tried to fix the emergency rent relief program to help struggling renters and landlords. Running out of time and desperate to beat a possible wave of evictions, the White House abruptly shifted course on Thursday, throwing responsibility to Congress and prompting an unsuccessful rescue operation by Democrats in the House on Friday. Federal moratorium

The Supreme Court had voted to not end the eviction program and let it expire on July 31. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the opinion in June that “those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution” of the funds that Congress appropriated to provide rental assistance to those in need due to the pandemic. Congress needed to pass new legislation to extend the moratorium, which it failed to do.

The failure of these efforts reflects months of frustration, as the White House vigorously lobbied states to speed up housing assistance for renters before the moratorium expires, with mixed results. Due to the inaction of the previous government which left no concrete plan of implementation, Biden’s team has been working hard to establish a viable federal-local funding pipeline, hindered by the state governments, which considered the plan a burden, and the ambivalence of many owners. As a result, out of the $47 billion Emergency Rental Assistance program, to date, only $3 billion — about 7 per cent of what was supposed to be a crisis-averting infusion of cash has been disbursed.

The federal eviction moratorium, put in place by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in November, was effective in reducing the number of eviction cases that normally would have been filed since last fall by about half, according to an analysis of filings by the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. Advocates for the extension of the Emergency Rental Assistance program have argued it is also a public health imperative because evictions make it harder for people to socially distance.

On Friday, several government agencies, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency, along with the Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Departments, announced that they would extend their eviction moratoriums until Sept. 30.

An estimated 11 million adult renters are considered seriously delinquent on their rent payment, according to a survey by the Census Bureau, but no one knows how many renters are in danger of being evicted in the near future.

Dana Remus, the White House counsel, expressed concerns that an extension was not a legally available option, and other officials suggested it could prompt the Supreme Court to strike down the administration’s broad use of public health laws to justify a range of federal policies, and their view prevailed, the officials said.

In a statement Friday evening, Biden sought to put the onus on local officials to provide housing aid, saying “there can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants.”

“Every state and local government must get these funds out to ensure we prevent every eviction we can,” he added.

States like California and New York have already extended their state eviction moratoriums. Other states like Minnesota and Nevada have put in place laws that keep renters protected from eviction while they are in the process of applying for emergency rental assistance.

As Federal Mortarium Comes to an End, Tenants in the USA Stare at Possible Evictions

Other localities have taken additional actions. For example, in the Atlanta area, DeKalb County Chief Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson filed an emergency order on Friday that would establish a ban on evictions in the county for 60 additional days after the federal ban ended.

The White House also urged landlords to hold off for 30 days and seek federal emergency rental assistance to be compensated. Biden and Democrats have called attention to $46.5 billion approved by Congress this year for rental assistance that state and local governments have been slow to spend.

Other countries — including Britain, Spain and Australia — similarly imposed measures banning evictions and rent increases for individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic. Some of those programs are being rolled back, and housing advocates have warned that millions of European households risk losing their homes in the coming months as a result.

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Anahita Mir

Anahita Mir is a researcher and oral historian. Anahita has done her Bachelors from Delhi University and is an alumnus of the Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, having completed her Masters in 2017.

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