President Joe Biden will let a nationwide eviction moratorium lapse as scheduled on Saturday, despite pressure from Democrats and housing advocates who warned that a wave of people were at risk of losing their homes just as Covid-19 cases surge.
The White House in a statement Thursday pinned the decision on a Supreme Court ruling last month that indicated a majority of justices believed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed the ban on eviction for nonpayment of rent in September. Biden is now calling on Congress to pass legislation to extend it.
“Given the recent spread of the Delta variant, including among those Americans both most likely to face evictions and lacking vaccinations, President Biden would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available.”
Housing advocates warn that millions of renters now face the prospect of losing their homes, a situation that’s been exacerbated by state and local bottlenecks in the distribution of $46.5 billion in rental assistance authorized by Congress.
In the interim, the White House is calling on state and local governments to “urgently accelerate their efforts” to disburse rental funds, of which only 6.5 percent had been distributed to landlords and tenants by the end of June. Biden is also directing three government agencies that back mortgages — the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs — to extend their own eviction bans through September.
The Biden administration found its hands to be tied by a Supreme Court decision last month in a case where landlords sued to overturn the ban. The high court let the moratorium remain in place, with conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining liberals to allow it to continue. But Kavanaugh cautioned that he agreed with a lower court’s finding that the CDC had overstepped its authority. He wrote that “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31” in his concurring opinion.
Earlier this week, House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in an interview that she was pushing the Biden administration to renew the moratorium despite concerns about shaky legal footing.
“I know that’s a problem, but I’m so worried about the evictions and all these children and families that might end up on the street,” she said. “So despite the obstacles that may get in the way, I think they should try [to extend it].”